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1 FEBRUARY 1988 






JPRS Report — 

Soviet Union 

Political Affairs 

Fictionalized Report on First Anniversary of Chernobyl Accident — Part 2 



Soviet Union 

Political Affairs 

Fictionalized Report on First Anniversary of Chernobyl Accident — Part 2 

jpRS-uPA-88-005 CONTENTS i February 1988 

View of Kiev. 1 

“The Danger of an Explosion Has Been Eliminated” .3 

Flight Over the Reactor .6 

Doctor Hammer, Doctor Gale .-.9 

“How People are Tested...” . 14 

The Last Warning.18 

1 February 1988 


Part 2 

18000032 Moscow YUNOST in Russian No 7, 1987 
pp 33-53 

[“Magazine version” of Yuriy Shcherbak’s “Chernobyl: 
A Documentary Story”; Part 2; for Part 1 of this report 
see JPRS-UPA-87-029 of 15 September 1987] 

View of Kiev 

[Text] The hot month of May 1986 put its own new 
imprint on Kiev: the city that was clean even without 
this was washed and licked clean to an incomprehensible 
degree in those days. Uninterruptedly, for entire days on 
end, sprinkler trucks travelled through the city, wiggling 
their watery whiskers and washing the radioactive dust 
from the asphalt. Wet rags lay everywhere at the doors to 
houses, institutions, stores and even churches, and the 
endless wiping of footwear became a de rigeur indication 
of good tone. The city’s streets remained full of people as 
before, but if you looked closely you would notice that 
the number of children in Kiev had decreased greatly — 
during the first days of May the city took to moving its 
children out in any way possible — organized and not 
organized, by train, airplane, bus and Zhiguli. Large 
columns of automobiles with belongings on the roofs 
moved to the west, south and east. Parents were driving, 
taking their children and grandfathers and grandmothers 
out, going to stay with relatives and acquaintances; many 
were going wherever the road led, just to get as far away 
as possible from the radiation. 

During those days reports emphasized that Kiev and 
Kiev Oblast were living a normal life. Yes, people did 
not flinch before misfortune, people struggled with the 
accident and its consequences, and the external appear¬ 
ance of the city changed very little. The internal, the 
most tenacious essence of life, was preserved, for enter¬ 
prises, the means of transportation, stores, institutes and 
institutions operated normally, communications func¬ 
tioned (with brief interruptions, it is true), and the 
newspaper continued to be published. 

...During those days it seemed that never before had 
there been so many beautiful girls in the city, that never 
before in Kiev’s history had spring been so enchanting. I 
will never forget how, returning from Chernobyl, I came 
into Kiev just as dusk was settling over the city. Every¬ 
thing was so familiar—the silhouette of the uncompleted 
skyscraper hotel was darkening above the Levoberez- 
haya metro station. Across the way, at the taxi stand, the 
roofs of automobiles were glistening like a school of 
variegated fish flattening themselves to sandy bottoms 
for the night. The metro rushed headlong toward the 
bridge in order to plunge into the thickness of the Kiev 
hills and and to rumble to the Kreshchatik. Under the 
metro bridge the Dnepr was bursting from high water, its 
expanse disappearing into the darkness was Gogolian in 
immensity and pathos. Lovers were kissing on the 

embankment, and tired people were returning to their 
homes—and all of these simple pictures of life in this city 
of many millions, which usually did not touch us, 
suddenly shook me to the depths of my soul as if I had 
gathered insight and understanding into some very 
important change that had occurred in my consciusness 
during the last several days. This peaceful evening 
seemed to me to be piercingly beautiful, as if 1 were 
parting forever with springtime, with the city and with 
life itself, strangers became dear to me and the everyday 
life of Kiev appeared to me in a new light. 

I felt this in the alarming light of the accident, which 
occurred quite close—just two hours drive by car— 
during the days when the feeling of danger was height¬ 
ened to the limit. Later this passed. 

The Dnepr, the hills, the houses and the people—all of 
the commonplace seemed at that time to me unusual, as 
if it had come off the screen of a science-fiction movie. 
Especially often during those days I remembered Stanley 
Kramer’s film, “On the Beach,” which told the story of 
Austrailia as it waited, doomed, for the arrival of the 
radiation cloud after the third and final atomic war in 
the history of mankind. The strange and unrealistic 
aspect of the film seemed to be that during this critical 
situation people continued to live as before, without 
changing their habits, maintaining their outward calm 
and existing as if by inertia. It turned out that this was 
true to life. For Kiev’s population the old habits 

However, the patriarchal, ancient city with the gold 
cupolas of its cathedrals preserving the memory of the 
ages was transformed inscrutably during something like 
half a month, becoming lastingly connected with the 
image of the new atomic age. From a ringing metaphor 
repeated by us in vain before the accident, this phrase 
(“atomic age”) was transformed into harsh reality—the 
words “dosimetry control,” “radiation,” “decontamina¬ 
tion,” all of these “milliroentgens,” “roentgen equiva¬ 
lents,” “rads” and such has firmly entered the vocabu¬ 
lary of Kiev’s population, and the figure of a man in a 
gown with a respirator on his face and a Geiger counter 
in his hands being glimpsed fleetingly everywhere, has 
become customary, just like the crowd of automobiles at 
the entrance points to Kiev—the dosimetric control of 
automobiles has been instituted at all KP [Check points]. 

Milk and milk products have disappeared from Kiev 
markets and counters, and it is forbidden to sell lettuce, 
sorrel and spinach. Other gifts of the Ukrainian soil — 
radishes and strawberries, early potatoes and onions — 
were subject to dosimetric control. “God willing, this 
does not have radiation,” chanted the peasants on Bes- 
sarabka, selling strawberries for fabulously low prices. 
But few people bought. 

And as always happens, the childred began to copy the 
incomprehensible life of adults. On Rusanovka I saw 
children running through the bushes with sticks in their 

1 February 1988 

hands, as if measuring the area with a dosimeter. They 
were playing radiation. And one iittle girl wrapped in a 
sheet walked around at the entrance to her house, 
making “frightening” eyes and saying in a sepulchral 
voice: “Ooo-ooo, I am radiation, everyone hide from me. 
I am evil and terrible...” 

“In Kiev there is a business-like and working atmo¬ 
sphere,” assured the newspapers, radio and television, 
and this was the truth. Ancient Kiev maintained its face 
and dignity before itself, before our country and before 
the entire world — this was emphasized repeatedly with 
astonishment and respect by guests to the capital of the 

This is so. 

But during those days another Kiev also existed, hidden 
from outside glances, one that did not attract the atten¬ 
tion of newspapers and television, and not mentioning it 
now would mean hiding a part of the truth and distorting 
the complicated manner of events. It was a city with 
excited crowds at the ticket counters of the railroad 
stations and Aeroflot. There were some days when even 
those with tickets had difficulty in reaching the train 
station — the police had to intervene. Eight to ten people 
travelled in compartments meant for four; speculators 
asked up to 100 rubles for tickets to Moscow that 
normally sold for 15 rubles. At that time I was touched 
nearly to tears, even though I am not a veiy emotional 
person, by Yevgeniy Lvovich lyerusalimskiy, candidate 
of medical sciences and senior scientific worker of the 
Kiev Institute of Problems in Oncology, an individual 
whom we met just 3 days before all of this happened. He 
came to me and offered me a ticket to Moscow for my 
daughter. And although the ticket was not needed, dur¬ 
ing those days that kind of offer was the sign of a most 
faithful friendship...During those days, like during the 
war, a number of customary notions changed instanta¬ 
neously. Eternal concepts such as faithfulness, decency 
and duty acquired a special significance and value. That 
May in many Kiev apartments telephone calls were 
received from different cities of the Soviet Union. 
Friends, relatives and acquaintances called, inviting peo¬ 
ple to visit. But there were others who did not call 
although, it would seem, according to all pre-Chernobyl 
rules of friendship they should have done so. 

For a long time — an entire month — I waited for a 
telephone call from Moscow from a certain individual 
whom I had considered a true friend, and who often had 
stayed with me in the past. I never did receive that 
call...But then quite unexpectedly the Armenian writer 
Gevorg Mikhaylovich Agadzhanyan, who lived in Azer¬ 
baijan, and whom I had met in Kiev by accident just 
once in my life, called me from Baku and suggested that 
I send my daughter to him for the summer... 

We had to become acquainted with many strange and 
unexpected things during those days. What do you think, 
why did lines form at the department store in early May? 

To buy Finnish suits, West German Salamander shoes or 
Yugoslavian leather jackets? No. To buy suitcases and 

During those days Kiev apartments were literally abuzz 
with conversations and rumors, arguments and discus¬ 
sions, conjecture and facts. Decisions were made and 
immediately rescinded, phantastic plans were presented, 
and anecdotes and phantastic tales were told. Persistenty 
tales circulated in the city about black “Volgas,” driving 
up to the train platforms, about long lines for airplane 
tickets at counters located in some of the more promi¬ 
nent of the capital’s buildings... 

Yes, there was no panic in Kiev. But there was enormous 
alarm concerning the health of both children and adults 
and it was worthwhile to heed this anxiety as well. 

Everyone remembers the photographs of the destroyed 
reactor that were spread all over our newspapers. Even 
people who understood nothing about atomic energy 
were shocked by the unnatural appearance of the reactor. 
To specialists it was clear that something unprecedented 
in scale had occurred. The first emissions travelled 
northwest and west. On 30 April the wind changed 
direction and began to blow towards Kiev. Radioactive 
particles were carried toward the city with its multi¬ 
million population. I remember that day distinctly — I 
was at the Ukrainian Ministry of Health. I remember 
that the worry and tension among doctors grew and that 
in ministry offices and hallways there was talk about 
taking extreme preventative measures. Proposals were 
made to turn to the population with a special call 
concerning precautionary measures. But until 6 May no 
one heeded these proposals. 

Many, very many now blame the doctors. Why didn’t 
they warn us? Why didn’t they step in sooner? I do not 
want to shield my colleagues —there are many sins on 
their consciences too. But for the sake of fairness I would 
like to emphasize that it is not the doctors who are in 
charge of the channels of mass information. And it is not 
the doctors who make the most important decisions. 
And decisions were essential. Already in late April 
serious thought should have been given to the expedi¬ 
ency of carrying out festive Mayday ceremonies in Kiev 
and regions neighboring on the zone, especially with the 
participation in them of children. I am sure that the love 
of the Soviet people for the May 1 holiday and their 
patriotic feelings would in no way have been diminished 
as a result of the cancellation of the festivities. I was told 
about the instance in which one of the first postwar May 
1 celebrations was cancelled in Belorussia...due to rain. 
And what happened? Similarly, in 1986 the people would 
have understood correctly the necessity for emergency 
measures and for the temporary absence of children 
from the streets. The people would have been grateful, 
because the photographs of the damaged reactor and of 
smiling children with flowers standing in festive columns 
does not bear comparison. Wasn’t it possible during 
those holidays to ask the people who filled the parks. 

1 February 1988 


beaches and nearby forests, who went to their dachas, to 
abstain temporarily from these joys of spring? The 
people would have understood. 

Some might object that radiation levels in Kiev did not 
exceed acceptable levels so why, as they say, guard the 
garden? But there are also acceptable levels of alarm and 
anxiety which during those days exceeded all conceiv¬ 
able levels. 

We should not have, and it was incorrect of us, to ignore 
the fear borne of radiation and to combat it either with 
silence or with bravely optimistic declarations. After all, 
in the course of dozens of years newspapers, radio, 
television and popular scientific journals themselves 
gave rise to, taught us, this fear by describing the horrors 
of atomic warfare and all its somatic (physical) and 
genetic consequences. And although the scale of the 
Chernobyl accident and an atomic explosion simply 
cannot be compared, nevertheless the fear of radiation 
was quite strong. It would have been possible to decrease 
it, to soften the psychological consequences of the acci¬ 
dent, with a quick announcement of preventative mea¬ 
sures—but not on May 6 but earlier. As the proverb says, 
“God helps those who help themselves.” 

During those days I wrote, and can repeat today with 
even greater harshness and certainty, that one of the 
most severe lessons of the first month (and subsequent 
months as well) of the “Chernobyl era” was taught to our 
means of mass information, which were not able to 
restructure their work in the spirit of the decisions of the 
27th party congress. The impetuous course of events 
sharply curtailed the time needed for bestirring them¬ 
selves, for various types of coordination and agreements. 
I recalled several difficult days in our lives, from 26 April 
to 6 May, when the shortage of domestic information 
was evident while foreign radio stations had free scope 
on our airways, literally tormenting those individuals 
who had rushed to their radios. Let’s not soften things 
for ourselves with lies — there were many people who 
did this because nature abhors a vacuum, including an 
informational vaccuum. This brought about not only 
ideological but also medical damage as well. Now it is 
already difficult to estimate how many people were 
seriously stressed that day as a result of the ignorance 
and fear for the lives of their children and close ones and 
for their health. 

There appeared in Kiev both “augurs of disaster,” dis¬ 
seminating all types of false rumors that encouraged 
panic, as well as the hale and hearty “optimists” who 
repeated only one thing over and over again: “Every¬ 
thing is fine, excellent canopy.” Within the city in the 
May heat it was possible to chance upon strange-looking 
figures wrapped up head to foot in old clothes, in 
overcoats, in hats or scarves covering almost half their 
faces, in gloves and socks...These were the “augurs of 
disaster,” mobilizing every means of individual protec¬ 
tion. I do not judge them, but after the Zone and all its 
problems all Kievan fears seemed simply ridiculous. 

After the first days of silence when information was 
extremely sparse, numerous articles appeared in news¬ 
papers, and television began to broadcast the appear¬ 
ances of specialists. But... 

A number of publications and television broadcasts were 
characterized by a falsely-cheerful, hat waving atmo¬ 
sphere, as if the discussion was not about a great human 
tragedy, not about one of the somber events of the 20th 
century, but about a school fire drill or competition 
among firefighters using dummies... 

The habit of working according to old schemes inherited 
from the time of general indifference had its effect; the 
desire to present only lulling,peaceful and joyful infor¬ 
mation had its effect; the fear of increasing glasnost as 
regards the most ticklish and uncomfortable questions, 
one of which was Chernobyl, also had its effect. Of 
course it would be unfair not to note the innovations that 
appeared during those days in the work of the organs of 
mass information. Let us at least look at the interesting 
experience of Ukrainian television—beginning in May 
the editors and technicians of the popular information 
program, “Aktualnaya kamera” [Topical Camera], peo¬ 
ple who were not only talented but brave as well (you will 
agree that it is not simple to film in the Zone, under fire 
by radiation), acquainted the Ukraine’s television view¬ 
ers with the events surrounding the AES [Atomic electric 
power plant]. 

But all of this was later. 

Between 3 May and 6 May dark rumors began to 
circulate in Kiev. It was said that any time now there 
would be an explosion at the station because the temper¬ 
ature in the reactor has increased to the outer limits and 
the flaming core of the reactor, having melted through 
the concrete casing, would come into contact with the 
water that has accumulated under the fourth block, and 
then...Some assured us (“augurs of catastrophe”) that 
there would be a hydrogen explosion (physicists denied 
this without equivocation), others (the “optimists”)— 
that this was just steam. In one variant as well as the 
other there was little cheer. It was said that plans were 
being readied for an evacuation of Kiev, and many more 
different things, were also said... 

“The Danger of an Explosion Has Been 

The most surprising thing was that this time the rumors 
had a weighty basis. 

From press reports: 

^"Academician Ye. Velikov reported: 

“ The reactor is damaged. Its core is a burning hot active 
zone; it is as if it is ‘hanging’ there. The reactor is covered 
from above with a layer of sand, lead, boron and clay, 
and this is an additional load on the structure. Below, in 

1 February 1988 

a special reservoir, there may be water...How will the 
burning hot reactor crystal behave? Will we be able to 
hold it or will it fall into the earth? No one in the world 
has ever been in such a difficult predicament—we must 
assess the situation very precisely without making a 
single error... 

“ The continuing development of events demonstrated 
that the direction taken to deal with the damaged reactor 
was the correct one.” (PRAVDA, 13 May 1986). 

From an article by V. F. Arapov, lieutenant general, 
member of the Military Council and director of the 
Political Administration of the Krasnoznarnennyy Kiev 
Military Okrug: 

“...The representative of the government commission 
made the following assignment to the commander of the 
exemplary mechanized company, Captain Petr Pavlo¬ 
vich Zborovskiy: 

“ ‘A critical situation has developed at the damaged 
reactor. It is possible that there is water in a special 
reservoir underneath it. If the concrete foundation does 
not hold something irreparable may happen. You must 
find the right solution in a short period of time and 
organize the pumping out of the water.’ 

“...The armored personnel carrier delivered Captain 
Zborovskiy and two volunteers — Junior Sergeant P. 
Avdeey and Lance-Corporal Yu. Korshunov — to the 
site where they were to penetrate into the building 
leading to the reservoir. Radiation measurement equip¬ 
ment showed that it would be safe to remain at the 
concrete wall for no more than 20 minutes. The dare¬ 
devils began their work, relieving each other. Finally an 
opening was made and Captain Zborovskiy stepped up 
to meet the unknown. Soon he proposed to the govern¬ 
ment commission a dependable solution for pumping 
the water, and it was confirmed.” (Magazine RADUGA, 
No 10, 1986). 

Nikolay Mikhaylovich Akimov, 30 years old, captain: 

“It turned out that we would have to work in the Zone 
with a very high level of radiation. That is why together 
with Captain Zborovskiy (also Lieutentant Zlobin was 
with him) we made a decision to first ask for volunteers. 
When we announced that we needed eight volunteers the 
entire staff that was in service, everyone, took a step 
forward. We selected eight people. Among them were 
senior sergeants Nanav and Oleynik. 

“We worked during the night, by the light of lanterns. 
We worked in protective clothing. It was not completely 
comfortable, it is true, but we had no other choice. You 
have seen this clothing—it is of a green color, and it is 
called OZK—general armed forces protective clothing. 
The situation that had developed at the station told us 
that we had to act quickly and decisively. The staff 

understood the assignment as it should have and at the 
station there was no need for superfluous orders or 
additions, there was only work. 

“We worked in the zone for just 24 minutes. During this 
time we laid about 1.5 kilometers of hoses, installed a 
pumping station and began to pump the water. Every¬ 
thing seemed to be going well, the water was being 
pumped out. But as they say, problems come in threes. 

“Soon after we had put down the hoses and had begun 
pumping out the water, in the night darkness someone’s 
truck mounted on caterpillar tracks crushed our hose. 
They were taking some kinds of measurements and in 
the darkness and did not notice the hoses. This is the 
type of lack of coordination that occurred. All of this 
happened in the zone with a high radiation level. There 
was nothing we could do. We got dressed and went there 
again. We went with a different group of volunteers from 
our company. The water was flowing under pressure and 
the hoses were not able to withstand the pressure and 
started to leak. And the water was radioactive. This 
spillage of water on the path of our work posed an 
additional danger. We had to immediately eliminate the 
spillage and clamp the hoses in places where the water 
was gushing out. All in all pressure was applied to many 
shadows on the hoses. 

“What do I want to say about the young men? Different 
things happen in our lives. As they say, there is no such 
thing as a job without dangers. When we got there we 
looked...No, at first there was no fear—we went in, 
everything was fine. Even birds were flying around. And 
then, when radiation readings were made — we each had 
our own individual dosimeter — when we understood 
that our bodies were being bombarded with roentgens, 
then the soldiers developed quite a different attitude. I 
will not hide it — when the dosimeters began their 
readings fear appeared. Nevertheless, not a single soldier 
at the station showed any sign of weakness, everyone 
fulfilled his task with bravery and with a high level of 
professional skill. There were no cowards among us. 

“Assignments were made outside the Zone. When we 
entered the Zone there was no time to give orders. First 
of all, it was uncomfortable — we were wearing respira¬ 
tors, and secondly you cannot do much ordering — 
everything must be done quickly. The young men did not 
waver, I did not notice any of that. Every one of them 
knew that he had taken in a dose of radiation, but each 
one fulfilled his task. 

“Moreover, technology is technology. The pumping sta¬ 
tion was in the Zone of the very high radiation level; it 
operated within closed premises and it was practically 
impossible to be in there. But as a result of the shortage 
of air and the gases in the air the machine kept dying. For 
this reason from time to time, or about every 25-30 
minutes, we entered the Zone, ventilated the premises, 
restarted the machine and again repeated the process. 

1 February 1988 


“This is the way it went for 24 hours. We did this work 
on the night of 6-7 May, Then the pumping station was 

“You understood that this was one of the most impor¬ 
tant operations during the entire Chernobyl epic?” 

“Yes, we understood this. Especially the officers. We 
understood that if water entered the boiling mass there 
would be an explosion or at the very least an evapora¬ 
tion...We all understood. These were totally comprehen¬ 
sible actions, we knew what we were up against.” 

“You do not regret having chosen the profession of 

“No. I myself am from Rostov Oblast, village of Orlovs¬ 
kiy. This is the native region of Budennyy. The Salskiye 
steppes. I graduated from the Kharkov Firefighting- 
Technical Institute of MBD [Ministry of Internal 
Affairs] and was an A-student. I entered the army and 
have been serving in Kiev for 6 years already. So you can 
consider me a Kievan. I do not regret my profession, I 
made a conscious choice.” 

“During those days all of Kiev lived with terrible 
rumors. Did you realize that you had done something 
quite outstanding?” 

“You know, we were relieved that we carried out our 
jobs. When we were able to report, ‘The danger of an 
explosion has been eliminated.’ The thought did not 
cross our minds that later we would be interviewed. We 
were thinking about something else: ‘This soldier has had 
this much radiation. He has to wait. First these soldiers 
will go. They have been exposed to less.’ 

“We protected each other. 

“And then it turned out that we were something like 
heros. I think that everyone who worked in Chernobyl 
did what he had to do. Everyone without exception. If it 
were not us, someone else would have been in our place. 
We simply went there as specialists.” 

Besik Davydovich Nanava, 19 years old, senior sergeant: 
“I was born in Georgia, in the city of Tskhakaya, and 
grew up there. My father is an engineer, my mother a 
bookkeeper. I have been serving for 1.5 years. 

“How did it happen? We were sitting in the club watch¬ 
ing a movie. There was an order: ‘Firefighting company 
on the alert!’ Immediately we all gathered and the 
company commander, Captain Akimov, says, ‘Fellows, 
get ready and prepare yourselves for work.’ He gave us 
instructions on safety measures. 

“When I heard all this I remembered my house, every¬ 
thing. But you know, I felt that I had to, that it was 
essential for me to do this. Since they had called us that 
meant we were needed. 

“On 5 May we arrived in Chernobyl, we arrived in the 
morning. We stood around there all day. On the 6th 
Major General A. F. Suyatinov arrived and the following 
order was given: Our special operations group must 
already be at its station. The company was fully drawn 
up and Captain Akimov said, ‘Volunteers—one step 
forward,’ Everyone took a firm step forward. Well, and 
the most healthy and physically fit were selected. I 
participated in sports and judo wrestling. We readied the 
trucks and checked the hoses and on 6 May at 9 p.m. we 
were at the station. There were four officers there— 
Captain Zborovskiy, Lieutenant Zlobin, Captain Aki¬ 
mov, Major Kotin and Major General Suyatinov. And 
there were eight of us—sergeants and soldiers. 

“When we arrived the major general said, ‘Shall we begin 
immediately or smoke a cigarette?’ Well, we discussed it 
and decided, ‘Let’s begin immediately.’ Without getting 
out of our trucks we immediately set off for the work site. 
We drove in. We are setting up the pump and beginning 
to pull out the hoses. At 2.30 a.m. we finished our work, 
returned, underwent decontamination, washed and laid 
down to rest in the barracks. At 5 a.m. we received an 
order to go there again. It was said that some kind of 
reconnaissance vehicle mounted on caterpillar treads 
had travelled over some hoses and cut them in half And 
the contaminated water had begun to flow...We got up, 
changed clothes, arrived at the place of the accident, 
changed the hoses and went back. All of this took about 
25 minutes. Three hours passed, and there was a heli¬ 
copter on duty constantly there, and from the helicopter 
there was a report that a fountain was spurting through a 
hole in one of the hoses and must be fixed immediately. 
Again we were awakened. We went there immediately. 
We clamped it and all. We were immediately replaced 
and sent to the hospital for inspection. 

“Now I feel good. I did not write to my parents about 
this. But you know what happened? I was given a 
vacation and went home, and my father saw the military 
voucher which had my radiation dose recorded on it. He 
asks me, ‘Son, what is this from, what is it?’ Of course I 
did not describe it in too much detail, but he under¬ 
stands these things and he guessed immediately. He says, 
‘Tell me how it was.’ Well, I tried to mitigate it. I did not 
want to describe the harsh reality, the way it was. But 
they found everything out.” 

...The night of 6-7 May 1986 will always be a part of 
history as one of the most significant victories over the 
damanged reactor. I do not want to indulge in saccharine 
symbolism or be carried away by solemn comparisons. 
We have already been carried away, enough. But the 
symbolism suggests itself—this occurred on the eve of 
the Day of Victory. And now for me these two dates have 
become firmly tied together. No matter how long I live, 
on “short May nights” I will always remember May 1945, 
a devastated and burnt but triumphant Kiev—“Stude- 
bakers” in the streets, anti-aircraft batteries in Shev¬ 
chenko Park being readied for a grandiose salute, tears in 
the eyes of the adults; and "next to it — May 1986 — 

1 February 1988 


armored troop carriers speeding to the Zone, and the 
words of one officer who came to see us in the hospital, 
“Lads, congratulations on your victory! There will be no 

In the collective that carried out this responsible assign¬ 
ment of the government commission I had the opportu¬ 
nity to spend some time with veterans of the Great 
Fatherland War. The meeting was organized by Stanis¬ 
lav Antonovich Shalatskiy, a handsome person, an expe¬ 
rienced journalist, a colonel in the Soviet Army and at 
the same time in the Polish Forces. In late 1944 he was 
the editor of a newspaper for the First Tank Division of 
the Pantserni Polish Forces — it was in this division that 
the heroes of the very popular television movie. Tour 
Members of a Tank Crew and a Dog,’ served. 

Attending this meeting was Hero of the Soviet Union, 
ace pilot. Colonel Georgiy Gordeyevich Golubev, who 
during the war was the second pilot for the legendary 
Pokryshkin, and the reknowned intelligence officer who 
saved ancient Crackow from destruction by Hitler— 
Yevgeniy Stepanovich Bereznyak, who is known to the 
entire country as “Major Vikhr.” 

Colonel Golubev very vividly and truthfully told about 
the difficult work of the fighter pilot, about the specific 
work involved and not about the “heroic exploits” in 
general — about the physical overload that ace pilots 
suffered, about various technical stratagems utilized by 
pilots during the war. If you do not shoot down the 
enemy, then he will shoot you down. And Bereznyak 
talked about the work of intelligence officers in the 
enemy camp, when an individual is under constant stress 
sensing the oppressive feeling of danger. Under such 
conditions it is the boldest, the calmest and the most 
resourceful who survive. 

I looked at the young 18-19 year old short-haired lads 
with the red epaulettes on their shoulders and I saw how 
attentively they listened to the stories of the veterans. I 
thought to myself: In about 40 years these lads, hoary 
with age, will tell about the hot days of Chernobyl in the 
same way, and in the same way the children of the 21st 
century will listen with baited breath. 

But if I had told this to the soldiers they would not have 
believed me, they would have laughed. Because today 
they cannot imagine themselves as being old. 

Flight Over the Reactor 

From the first days of the accident the situation around 
the damaged reactor was taken under control. 

All available means—both land and air—were utilized 
for this purpose. 

Nikolay Andreyevich Volkozub, 54 years old, senior 
inspector pilot of the VVS [Airforce] of the Kiev Military 
Okrug, military sniper pilot, colonel and USSR master of 
helicopter sports: 

“On the morning of 27 April I was told by telephone to 
come to headquarters with all individual means of 
protection. That was on Sunday. A car arrived, I gath¬ 
ered my things quickly, arrived at headquarters and 
learned about what had happened. 

“I was given the order to fly to the city of Pripyat. When 
I flew past the station, whether I wanted to or not, I 
passed to the side of it and saw the entire picture. I was 
familiar with the area, having flown here frequently. We 
turned the radiation measuring instruments on on board 
the helicopter and already during the approach to the 
nuclear power station we noticed that the radiation 
levels were increasing. I saw the ventilation stack and the 
damaged fourth power unit. There was smoke and inside 
we could see flames within the ruins of the reactor. The 
smoke was grey. 

“I arrived in Pripyat and heard the voice of the director. 
Our director. Major General Nikolay Trofimovich 
Antoshkin, was already there. I landed at the stadium, A 
vehicle drove up to me. I asked, ‘Where is there another 
landing field?’ They answered, ‘Near the flower bed, near 
the gorispolkom,’ I took off and landed near the flower 
bed. I arrived in Pripyat around 1600 hours. The city 
had already been evacuated. Only in front of the gori¬ 
spolkom were there any vehicles. The city was empty. 
This was very unusual. 

“I went to headquarters, to Major General Antoshkin. 
Just then two other MI-8 helicopters, which had already 
begun dumping their cargo, arrived. They were throwing 
sacks of sand and boric acid into the reactor. 

“They loaded the sacks near the river terminal and 
carried them directly there, to the central landing field. 
From there the helicopters flew to the reactor. At first the 
sacks were not attached on the outside of the helicopters 
but placed right inside. When we approached the reactor 
we opened the door and simply dumped the sacks. 

“On the 27th our helicopter pilots dumped sacks until 
nightfall. We reported to the government commission 
that we had dumped—now I don’t recall so precisely—it 
seems about 80 plus sacks. Commission chairman Boris 
Yevdokimovich Shcherbin said that this was a scanty 
amount, a drop in the ocean. Too little. Tons were 

“We flew to the base and began to think: What should we 
do? We brought it up for discussion with the entire staff, 
both pilots and technicians. Dumping the sacks by hand 
was not efficient and not without its dangers. One flight 
technologist—how much could he dump out? So on the 
night of 27-28 April we kept thinking about how we 
could do this better. After all in principle the external 

1 February 1988 


hanger on the MI-8 could carry 2.5 tons. On that night 
we had the idea to hang the cargo on the external hanger. 
We decided to put the sacks in the brake parachutes of 
fighter aircraft — they are very strong — and suspend 
them. We have a special attachment on helicopters that 
enables us to unhook the cargo. You press a button and 
it releases. This worked. First we worked with the MI-8’s 
and then we used more powerful machines, 

“Our command point was set up in the Polesye hotel in 
the center of Pripyat. From there one can see the plant 
like the palm of one’s hand. We could see how the 
helicopters, after taking off from the field, followed their 
battle route for dumping, and it was possible to direct 
them. The difficulty was that we did not have a special 
back-sight for releasing the external hanger, that moun¬ 
tain of sacks that dangled under the machine. In working 
out the flight methodology we determined that the 
helicopters must fly at a height of 200 meters. They could 
not fly lower because of the radiation and moreover, the 
ventilation stack there was 140-150 meters tall. That was 
tight. We had to move toward the stack. It was the main 
orientation point. I can still see it...It will probably 
remain in my memory all my life. I even know where 
every splinter was located on it—no one had seen them 
yet, but I examined the stack. There were platforms on it. 

“We maintained a speed of 80 kilometers. The director 
followed the flights with a theodolite. A point was 
selected, and when the helicopter reached that point the 
command was given, ‘Drop.’ We worked it out so that 
everything hit the damaged area of the reactor. Then we 
set the helicopter that controlled the precision of the 
target-hit higher. We took photographs and by the end of 
the day we could see how precise our target ability was. 

“Then we came up with another improvement—we 
made it so that the parachute remained while the sacks 
fell. We unhooked two ends of the parachute. Later, 
when we worked with stronger helicopters and dropped 
lead bars, we dropped them off with freight transport 
parachutes earmarked for landing military equipment. 

“After a few days we organized a field in the village of 
Kopachi. This was also close to the nuclear power 
station, but radiation levels were lower here. 

“The fact that radiation has no taste, color or odor at 
first dulled the feeling of danger. No one looked at this — 
neither at the dust nor at anything else. We worked with 
all our might. We had respirators, but if you looked you 
would see that the soldiers who were loading the sacks 
had pushed their respirators up onto their foreheads, like 

“Later, when we understood, briefings began, medicine 
came into battle and punishments were meted out. 

“Later, when the wind direction changed toward Kopa¬ 
chi and radiation levels rose sharply we changed our base 
and moved to Chernobyl. 

“During these flights I prepared the crews and explained 
to them the methodology for releasing the cargo. Crews 
from other areas began coming to help us. We had 
already gained some experience and we first trained 
every newly-arrived crew. We developed schemes con¬ 
cerning the way in which to suspend the cargo, to carry 
out the flight and to drop the cargo. Everything was 
covered in detail. You carry out the briefing and check 
for preparedness and sit down as the second pilot, make 
one more trip with them, and then they begin to make 
their own flights. 

“After the flights there was a sanitation treatment and 
decontamination of the helicopters. 

“On 7 May we stopped the filling of the reactor. No 
sooner had we stopped than at one of the meetings of the 
government commission scientists and specialists made 
a decision — in order to indicate further measures for 
avoiding accidents it was essential to learn what the 
tempterature and composition of the gases inside the 
reactor were. Until that time it had still been impossible 
to approach the reactor on foot or by vehicle because 
radiation levels were still very high. One scientist sug¬ 
gested that this task be carried out by helicopter. This 
was academician Legasov. 

“No one had ever fulfilled such an assignment. Wherein 
was the difficulty of this assigment? According to its 
aerodynamic qualities a helicopter can hover above the 
ground either at a height of 10 meters (this is called 
hovering in the safe zone) or over 500 meters. From 10 
to 200 meters is the forbidden zone. What is this related 
to? In general the helicopter is a safe machine, I have 
been flying them since 1960. It is like a bicycle to me. Any 
time an engine failed I was able to land safely. But if the 
helicopter is hovering at up to 200 meters and if the 
engine fails the pilot will not be able to land the vehicle 
no matter how well trained he is because the propellor 
will not have time to switch to a regimen of automatic 
rotation, i.e. gliding. But this is only if it is hovering. If it 
is flying horizontally then that’s all right. A helicopter 
can switch to a regimen of automatic rotation only at a 
height of 500 meters. 

“That is why one of the dangers was hovering at a height 
of over 10 meters. This was forbidden. This was allowed 
only under certain circumstances. Secondly, there was 
the escape of heat from the reactor. No one knew the 
heat characteristics of the reactor. And in a zone with 
increased temperatures the helicopter’s power decreases. 
Well, and there was also the elevated radiation level. 
And another thing — the crew cannot see what is going 
on underneath it. 

“Everyone understood these difficulties. But there was 
no other solution. Everything proceeded according to 
wartime standards. And the measurements needed to be 
taken. The task consisted of lowering the active part of 
the temperature-measurement equipment, the so-called 
thermocouple, into the reactor. 

1 February 1988 


“The VVS commander flew to us and gave us the 
following order: The assignment is a very difficult one. 
But it must be accomplished. How can it be done?’ 

“He was asking me. I said: ‘Of course it is complicated, 
but we must try. Let’s practice.’ I have a great deal of 
experience. I fly all three helicopters and for this reason 
they probably had the idea to assign me. 

“Preparations began. I immediately thought out a plan 
about how to do all of this. At that time I was totally cut 
off from everything around me. I concentrated only on 
this flight. In addition to a second pilot and a flight 
technologist, doctor of technical sciences Yevgeniy 
Petrovich Ryazantsev, deputy director of the Atomic 
Energy Institute imeni I. V. Kurchatov, was to accom¬ 
pany me. Yevgeniy Petrovich explained to me that a 
thermocouple is a metal pipe on a cable. The director of 
the radiation supervisor replacements, Aleksandr Stepa¬ 
novich Tsikalo, was also to fly with me. You remember 
the people with whom you had to work under difficult 

“We had to figure out how to lower this thermocouple 
into the reactor. I went to our engineers, and said: ‘Let’s 
include your engineering ideas, let’s think about it.’ 
Although I already had ideas of my own. 

“We took a cable 300 meters in length. You know, this is 
not a good incentive — an accident — but if we had 
worked and lived during regular times as we did then, 
with such efficiency, without red tape, with everyone 
trying with all his might, we would have had a different 
life...In literally half an hour the cable was ready. 

“We wound the wire from the thermocouple around the 
cable. We hung the weight at the bottom of the cable. We 
laid out the cable at the airport. I selected the helicopter 
myself, one of the more powerful, and tested the engines. 

I issued orders to the crew. It’s true there was no delight 
expressed by the crew, but this was a necessity. I calcu¬ 
lated how much fuel to take. We did not need any excess, 
and for this reason a poured out some of the surplus. I 
started the helicopter up and flew to the cable. I hooked 
it on and went right from there. I raised it. We had made 
a circle on the ground out of the parachutes to approxi¬ 
mate the circumference of the reactor, 12-14 meters. I 
began to imitate the flight. A weight of about 200 
kilograms hung on the bottom. I come in smoothly, begin 
to hover, turn off the speed and slowly approach this 
circle. The guide makes corrections. I hover. He gives me 
the order, ‘Hover precisely above that.’ I find an orien¬ 
tation point in order to hover correctly, correlate my 
position, but feel intuitively that I am hovering at the 
precise point. I hold back the helicopter. But he says, 
‘You are hovering precisely, but the weight is swinging 
like a pendulum.’ I was hovering at a height of 350 
meters, but the weight was swinging. 

“I hover for 5 minutes—it is swinging, I hover 10 
minutes—still swinging. The swinging is not decreasing. 
I am hovering and thinking: What should I do? The 
practice is also sufficiently dangerous, but morally more 
tranquil—there is no radiation and no high tempera¬ 
tures. But from the point of view of aerodynamics it was 
dangerous. But you don’t think about that in flight. 

“I see that nothing is happening. I prepare for landing 
and place the cable on the field. I release it and land. 

“Now I had another idea: What if we hang weights along 
the entire length of the cable at regular intervals? It must 
be stable. We strung lead bars on the cable. Our engi¬ 
neers did everything efficiently. 

“All of this was accomplished on the night of 7 May. 

“The next day I went on a practice flight with this cable. 
Cable tension was excellent. As soon as I touched the 
earth with its tip (I heard the order, ‘Contact!’) I moved 
away and the cable stood like a pole. Here you already 
need a jewel-like piloting technique...I made one more 
approach and was convinced that it was possible. The 
way we looked after this flight—you should have seen 
it...In general, a flight with an external hanger is consid¬ 
ered to be one of the most difficult...Later I tried a few 
more approaches. 

“On the 8th the thermocouple was brought to us. It was 
like a wire. The end is a sensing device. We connected 
everything up and laid the cable out on the landing field 
in Chernobyl. 

“On 9 May Yevgeniy Petrovich Ryazantsev and Alek¬ 
sandr Stepanovich Tsikalo arrived. We installed equip¬ 
ment in the helicopter. Before the flight we ourselves, the 
crew, made a protective barrier from sheets of lead—we 
put them on our seats, on the floor. The only places we 
could not put them was where the pedals were, where our 
feet were. We covered ourselves well. We were given lead 
aprons. We explained to our passengers how we would 
fly, covered them with sheets as well and agreed about 
cooperation. My colleague, Lyubomir Vladimirovich 
Mimka, followed the flight. He was located in Pripyat in 
Polesye Hotel. 

“Well, everyone sat in the helicopter. We took off from 
Chernobyl without any problems. We marked the end of 
the cable with an orange ring to increase its visibility. 

“I reached a height of 350 meters. I had to find out what 
the temperature there was and what kind of power the 
engines had. The helicopter hovered with stability. 

“The flight director said to me, ‘To the building it is 50 
meters...40...20...’ He prompted me as to our height and 
distance. But once I was above the reactor neither I nor 
the director could tell whether I had met the mark or not. 

1 February 1988 


This is why another MI~26 helicopter was sent. Colonel 
Chichkov was the pilot. He hovered 2-3 kilometers 
behind me and saw everything. I was to hover near the 

“Yevgeniy Petrovich Ryazantsev himself was looking 
right into the hatch. He demonstrated through gestures 
that we were above the reactor. We took temperature 
readings at a height of 50 meters above the reactor, 40, 
20 and in the reactor itself. Yevgeniy Petrovich saw 
everything. The equipment was recording. When we had 
done everything I withdrew. 

“Beyond Pripyat we had marked a special place to drop 
the cable into sand. The cable was radioactive. 

“From the time we began to hover all of this had taken 6 
minutes 20 second. Yet it seemed like an eternity. 

“This was a victory. 

“The next day, 10 May, we were given another order—to 
determine the compostion of gases being emitted. Again 
the same thing, the same kind of cable, but instead of a 
thermocouple a container was attached to the end. Here 
the task was simpler—instead of hovering we were to fly 
by smoothly. On 12 May we had to repeat everything 
with the thermocouple. Now we had experience and 
some composure. We flew out again. And despite the fact 
that we had some experience we were not able to hover 
less than 6 minutes. 

“During the approach, while steadying the cable, then 
descending and taking measurements, how did I feel? 
Beginning with the 27th we did not have a single 
peaceful night; we slept for 2-3 hours. We flew from 
dawn to nightfall. I am often asked, ‘How does radiation 
act?’ I don’t know what acts or how, but I was extremely 
tired, and from what? Either it was because of the 
radiation, or the lack of sleep, or the physical overload, 
or the moral and psychological stress. After all there was 
stress—it was a great responsibility. 

“After these three flights I flew again in order to take 
radiation readings. 

“I spent a total of 19 minutes 40 seconds above the 

From press reports: 

“With the goal of decreasing radioactive emissions 
above the active zone a protective covering of sand, clay, 
boron, dolomite, limestone and lead is being put down. 
The upper section of the reactor has been covered with a 
layer of over 4,000 tons of these protective materials.” 

(From a speech by the chairman of the government 
commission and Deputy Chairman of the USSR Council 
of Ministers, B. Ye. Shcherbin, at a press conference for 
Soviet and foreign journalists on 6 May 1986. PRAVDA, 
7 May 1986). 

“Professor M. Rozen (director of the Department of 
Nuclear Safety of MAGATE [IAEA, International 
Atomic Energy Agency] responded positively to the use 
by Soviet specialists of the methodology of retaining 
emissions with the aid of a shield of sand, boron, clay, 
domomite and Iead...Work is continuing on the damaged 
unit in order to fully neutralize the source of the emis¬ 
sions and to, as the physicists say, ’’bury it“ within layers 
of concrete.” (PRAVDA, 10 May 1986). 

“From the USSR Council of Ministers. On 10 May work 
continued at the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station to 
eliminate the consequences of the accident. As a result of 
the measures that were taken the temperature within the 
reactor has decreased. According to the opinion of 
scientists and specialists, this attests for all practical 
purposes to the curtailment of the process of burning of 
the reactor’s graphite.” 

Doctor Hammer, Doctor Gale 

From press reports: 

“On 15 May M. S. Gorbachev received in the Kremlin 
the well-known American industrialist and social activist 
A. Hammer and Doctor R. Gale. He expressed deep 
gratitude for the sympathy, understanding and rapid 
concrete aid given by them in connection with the 
calamity that had befallen the Soviet people — the 
accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant...In the 
actions of A. Hammer and R. Gale, emphasized M. S. 
Gorbachev, the Soviet people see an example of how 
relations should be built between the two great peoples in 
the presence of political wisdom and the desire to do this 
on the parts of the leaderships of both countries.” 
(PRAVDA, 16 May 1986). 

On the morning of 23 July a white Boeing-727 with a 
United States flag on the fuselage and blue and red 
markings on the tail stating “NIOXV,” which means 
number one in the company Occidental Petroleum Cor¬ 
poration, the president of which is Armand Hammer, 
landed at Borispolskiy Airport in Kiev. The tireless 88 
year old businessman each year “logs” hundreds of 
thousands of kilometers on this airplane, which is 
equipped with all the necessities — from an office to a 
bathroom, while managing a complex and multiprofile 
company. Occidental. 

Arriving in Kiev were Armand Hammer, his wife, as well 
as Doctor Robert Gale and his wife and three children. 

As soon as A. Hammer and his retinue arrived, they went 
to the cardiology section of Kiev Clinic Hospital Num¬ 
ber 14 imeni Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya. To the very 

1 February 1988 


same one where Maksim Drach worked in the therapy 
unit. Putting on a white lab coat and remembering his 
medical youth (after all, he was a trained physician), 
Doctor Hammer made rounds in the department in 
which over 200 people who had been in the danger zone 
after the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant 
had been under observation. All of them had already 
regained their health and been discharged. On that day 
there were only 5 people in the department who had been 
summoned by the doctors for this regular repeat check¬ 

Doctor Hammer sympathetically showed interest in the 
general well-being of each one of them. He was assisted 
by Dr. Gale who, having been in Kiev earlier, had 
already examined these sick people. 

On that same day A. Hammer and R. Gale surveyed the 
fourth reactor by helicopter. I had the opportunity to fly 
with them and now in my dreams and in my waking 
hours I am often haunted by the following memory—the 
flight over the fourth reactor, soaring over the large, 
white lifeless structure of the atomic power plant disap¬ 
pearing into the dusk, above the gleaming expanse of the 
dead cooler pond, the meandering course of the Pripyat, 
the phantasmogoric intertwining of the wires and the 
bridge pier, the accumulation of auxiliary structures and 
discarded equipment. As with any recollection that has 
passed into the depths of time, the real forms gradually 
become distorted, much loses a clear outline, but the 
feeling of pain and alarm remain unchanged, the same as 
they were during that summer hours of dusk. Clinging to 
the portholes we, the passengers of the MI-8, looked 
intensely at the magical picture that riveted our gaze— 
the black nozzle of the fourth reactor, the damaged 
structures and their debris at the foot. 

After flying over the fourth reactor, standing in front of 
movie and television cameras, Armand Hammer said: 

“I just returned from Chernobyl. It had such an impact 
on me that it is difficult for me to talk. I saw an entire 
city of 50,000 — and not a single person. Everything was 
empty. Buildings, large buildings, all empty. The laundry 
is even still hanging there, they didn’t have time to take 
down their laundry. I saw the work being done to save 
the reactor so that there would be no more problems with 
it. I would like every person to be able to visit here to see 
what I have seen. Then no one would talk about nuclear 
weapons. Then everyone would know that this is suicide 
for the entire world and everyone would understand that 
we must destroy nuclear weapons, I hope that when Mr. 
Gorbachev meets with Mr. Reagan he will tell Reagan 
everything and show him films on Chernobyl. Later, in 
the f^uture, when Reagan comes to Russia, I would like 
him to come to Kiev and Chernobyl. Let him see what I 
saw. Then, I think, he will never talk about nuclear 

Armand Hammer is an amazing person. Perhaps the 
secret of his everlasting good spirits has to do with his 
ability to relax in an instant. After our helicopter took off 
from Kiev he immediately drifted off to sleep. Doctor 
Gale solicitously covered him with a white raincoat. But 
as soon as the word “Chernobyl” was said this old, wise 
person was as if transformed, looking perspicaciously at 
the green scenery that was unfolding below us, along 
which the shadow of our helicopter crept like a spectral 
hay harvester. He noticed everything, even the 16-story 
houses in Pripyat, even the laundry on the balconies—all 
that was frozen and unnatural. And on the return trip he 
again fell asleep. 

In the evening of the same day Armand Hammer left 
Kiev for Los Angeles. 

And Doctor Gale and his family remained for a few days 
in order to meet with his Kievan colleagues, to relax in 
our city and to become acquainted with its memorials 
and museums. After all, during his first visit to Kiev on 
3 June Doctor Gale was not up to this—he had to consult 
a group of sick people who were under treatment in the 
Kiev X-ray, Radiology and Oncology Institute [KRROI] 
in the department of Professor L. P. Kindzelskiy. 

I had the opportunity to accompany Doctor Gale during 
his first visit to KRROI. Doctor Robert Peter Gale looks 
younger than his 40 years, participates in physical activ¬ 
ity (every morning an hour of “jogging”—running at a 
jog-trot—was mandatory), is dark complexioned, 
focused and terse; his grey eyes focus attentively and 
probingly on his collocuter. Despite his outward dryness 
and typically-American business-like manner he is very 
friendly and it is a pleasure to be with him—he answers 
the numerous questions by reporters intelligently and 
patiently. He is also elegant. He always wears a navy blue 
blazer with gold buttons, a dark red tie and gray slacks. 
And at first his bare heels looked very amusing and 
touching—he wears open-backed shoes. It turns out that 
this is a Los Angeles style—to go barefoot. In Gale’s 
home town it is always warm. 

Before going in we all — the guest and those accompa¬ 
nying him — changed into white coats, put on hats, 
masks and scrub shoes. And suddently we began to look 
a lot like each other—it was hard to tell who was from 
America, who from Moscow and who from Kiev. It was 
a family of doctors, united by a general interest in saving 

I saw how attentively Doctor Gale examined the sick, 
how he asked questions of the victims as well as the 
doctors, how he thoughtfully studied the charts with 
analysis data and asked about the details of the care 
rendered by Kievan doctors. He was especially interested 
in cases of bone marrow transplants. 

This is not surprising. After all, R. Gale is a well-known 
specialist in the area of bone marrow transplants, a 
professor of the California university system, a clinic 

1 February 1988 


director and chairman of the International Organization 
on Bone Marrow Transplants. Kiev’s Professor Yu. A. 
Grinevich reminded Gale that he had been a guest in 
Gale’s California clinic. At that time Gale, having lis¬ 
tened then to his assistants who were treating the patient, 
thought carefully for some time, confidently dictated the 
treatment plan and then, raising his arm, said, ‘And may 
God help us.’ Gale smiles, remembering that meeting, 
and his severe face suddenly becomes boyishly ardent. 
And, seeing the Kiev sick whose difficult condition has 
improved, he superstitiously knocks on wood with his 
finger — even if it does not help, it cannot hurt. 

Later to my question — what does he believe in? — 
Doctor Gale seriously answers: 

“In God. And in science.” 

Then, during those alarming days in June, his visit to 
Kiev was very short and counted minutes were devoted 
to conversations with the press. In July Dr. Gale felt 
much freer — on the day following A. Hammer’s depar¬ 
ture the American doctor, together with his wife Tamar, 
their 3-year old son Elan and daughters — 7-year old 
Shir and 9-year old Tal —went to the Kiev Institute of 
Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, where the guests 
were greeted by the director of the institute and acade¬ 
mician of USSR AMN [Academy of Medical Sciences], 
Ye. M. Lukyanov, who is chairman of the Ukrainian 
Division of the international organization, “Physicians 
of the World for Avoidance of Nuclear War.” 

Here, in probably the most important place in the world, 
where human life is born, where the struggle to continue 
the race of man is in progress, the children of Dr. Gale 
very quickly became acquainted with small patients 
without feeling any types of language or ideological 
barriers, exchanged gifts, together sang the song “Let 
there always be sunshine,” and then little Tal played the 
violin, and blue-eyed Shir regretted that there was no 
piano available — she would also have shown off her 

During this time Dr. Gale was participating in profes¬ 
sional discussions with pediatricians, obstetricians and 
cardiac surgeons. In the therapy division we stood for a 
long time over plastic incubators that were attached to 
complex equipment—here lay tiny beings, future people 
of the 21st century, who had not yet experienced any of 
the nuclear fears that concern us today. 

The Museum of the Great Fatherland War, the Museum 
of National Architecture and Life of the UkSSR in the 
village of Pirogovo, and the Museum of V. I. Lenin — 
this was R. Gale’s route. They represented different 
stages in our history, different boundaries in our lives... 

In the Museum of V. 1. Lenin Dr. Gale was attracted to 
a symbolic sculpture — a monkey sitting on Darwin’s 
book “The Origin of the Species,” is examining a human 
skull. The history of this sculpture is interesting. During 

his second visit to Moscow Armand Hammer gave V. I. 
Lenin this sculpture, which he had purchased in London. 
It is said that Vladimir Ilich, in accepting the gift, said, 
“Here is what can happen to humanity if it continues to 
perfect and cultivate weapons of destruction. Only mon¬ 
keys will be left on earth.” 

Such was the prophetic warning of our leader. 

I have many notes on conversations with Dr. Gale, who 
incidentally is keenly interested in literature and is 
himself the author of a publicistic book. I tried to select 
the most important from among these notes: 

“Doctor Gale, what brought you to medicine? Was it an 
accident or a conscious choice?” 

“Initially I wanted to study high energy physics and 
nuclear physics. To some degree this is an irony of fate 
because subsequently I as a doctor came into contact 
with the effect of nuclear energy on the body of man. But 
later, already in college, I decided that I want to deal with 
people more than to become involved in theoretical 

“Did this decision have to do with the special character¬ 
istics of your personality?” 

“I made the decision consciously. In our society the 
profession of doctor is one of the most respected. I 
wanted to become a doctor.” 

“How old were you when you made this decision?” 

“I started college at the age of 16.” 

“Was medicine a traditional profession for your fami¬ 

“No. There were no doctors in my family. My father was 
a businessman.” 

“Are you happy with the selection of medicine as your 

“Many people ask me, ‘Now that you have achieved 
international recognition what do you intend to change 
in your life?’ I always answer that I was completely 
satisfied with my life before becoming famous and I 
don’t intent to change anything!” 

“Doctor Gale, I know many oncologists and hematolo¬ 
gists and I know that this is a very difficult profession 
psychologically. After all the doctor always sees death 
and misfortune. How do you deal with this?” 

“In part you are correct. Doctor Shcherbak. Psycholog¬ 
ically this is a difficult profession. But on the other hand 
this is what attracts me. After all, it is a challenge. 
Oncologists and hematologists must often decide very 
difficult questions and be in difficult situations, partly 

1 February 1988 


because our knowledge in this area is limited. I think 
because of this, in this area of oncology there is a great 
opportunity for medical creativity. In college we often 
debated: What is better? To write music or to play 
music? If you are involved in cardiology, you are ‘playing 
music.’ But here in oncology you are ‘writing music.’ 
Here everything is new and unknown. 

“Moreover, I have been trained as a scientific worker as 
well as as a physician. It is in oncology and hematology 
that it is very easy to coordinate the results of laboratory 
research with hospital work, with the real treatment of 
the sick individual. After all it is no accident that the first 
diseases to be recognized in terms of their genetic nature 
were blood diseases — problems in hemoglobin synthe¬ 
sis, for example. And you know, that the majority of 
Nobel prizes in the area of medicine have in recent years 
been awarded for research on these types of questions.” 

“In connection with what you have said, whom do you 
see yourself to be more — a doctor or a scientist? Or are 
you for synthesis?” 

“To be a good doctor, to heal people — this is work that 
must occupy all of your time. Even more than all of your 
time. To be a real scientist—this is also more than for 
your entire lifetime. Sometimes I think that no one can 
be both simultaneously. This is especially true for our 
times, when both medicine and science have become so 
technological, so technology-intensive. But at the same 
time I recognize that we do not have enough people who 
could combine the two endeavors. This is very impor¬ 
tant. In my opinion there should be a synthesis. It is here 
that I feel I have a duty—to combine the physician and 
the scientist into one.” 

“How do you distribute your time under regular work 
conditions in your California clinic?” 

“As the clinic director I spend most of my time making 
rounds, checking patients and talking to them. My 
patients often have fairly common forms of cancer — 
lung cancer, for example. And I care for my patients as 
any regular doctor would. I spend some time in manag¬ 
ing a small research facility which is involved in the 
collection of statistical data on the results of the use of 
new methods for treating leucosis (leukemia), bone mar¬ 
row transplants and other data. And finally, a very 
important matter in which I am involved — my own 
laboratory, where basic research is conducted on the 
molecular mechanisms involved in the onset of leuke¬ 

“I understand that it appears that I am scattering myself, 
but I do not agree with this. I focus on these three 
directions because a very important goal stands before us 
— we want to find an effective treatment for leukemia. 
And we feel that the first results will be achieved in a 

“What are we moving toward? What is the basic idea of 
our research? Not a single child should have to die of 
leukemia. We must do everything in our power to make 
sure of this.” 

“Are there cases of cures in your clinic? Are you able to 
transform acute leukemias into chronic leukemias?” 

“In 1986 we were able to cure about 70 percent of the 
children who developed leukemia. And about 30 percent 
of adults. If we make a general calculation it turns out 
that we are successful in curing exactly half of the sick.” 

“That is a phenomenal result!” 

“Unfortunately, most of the population understands 
very little about how far we have come in the treatment 
of leukemia. But half the sick — this is not adequate. 
After all, the other half die. For example, this year 
20,000 Americans will die of cancer...” 

“In the newspapers it was written that you have a Ph.D. 
What problem did you study for your dissertation?” 

“My topic was life and death. The unity of life and death 
on a philosophic plane. In my biography, published in 
the U.S.A., I touch on this subject.” 

“Doctor Gale, what do you tell your sick patients when 
you give them the diagnosis?” 

“I always tell my patients the entire truth and report all 
facts to them. I do not know whether this is good or bad 
but we are of the philosophy that the individual should 
have all of the information. The fact is that the most 
difficult decisions about treatment must be made by the 
sick person. For this he needs reliable information. This 
does not always work in the best way, but we simply do 
not have any other solution.” 

“Were you involved in radiation sickness before you 
came to Moscow and began treating patients who had 
suffered at the time of the accident at the Chernobyl 
Nuclear Power Plant?” 

“Yes, we had some experience. In some cases leukemias 
must be treated with a bone marrow transplant. Then we 
purposefully subject patients to enormous doses of radi¬ 
ation, sometimes almost lethal doses. We have a fairly 
large amount of experience treating the sick who have 
received enormous doses of radiation on the order of 
several thousand ber’s (biological equivalent of the 

“Has your prognosis for the treatment of the sick in 
Moscow corresponded to actual results?” 

“In general, yes, if we speak of general laws and statisti¬ 
cal prognoses. But in each individual case it is very 
difficult to make a correct prediction. In general this is a 
very complicated ethical problem and a heavy burden — 

1 February 1988 


making prognoses. Here I am not talking about treating 
the Chernobyl sick but about treating the leukemia 
patients in my clinic. Let us say that I know that of 100 
patients who need bone marrow transplants 50 percent 
will survive and get better. But for those 50 percent who 
will die this is little comfort. We curtail their lives 
through our treatment. This is why each time a sick 
person dies in our clinic, his life shortened by treatment, 
I feel a personal responsibility. I must carp' this burden 
of responsibility for their deaths but sometimes I have no 

“The simplest decision would be to just not do bone 
marrow transplants. But then we will be relinquishing 
the right to live of the absolute majority of sick people.” 

“Doctor Gale, who of the sick in Moscow do you 
remember best?” 

“I want to say immediately that I remember each and 
every one of them, I remember then as people, as 
individuals. But some people left a deeper imprint. I 
especially remember three of the sick. 

“The first was the doctor who worked at the reactor and 
who helped the affected. As a doctor he recognized all of 
the danger of the developing situation, he understood 
everything, but acted bravely. The second sick person 
was the fireman. When I went to Kiev from Moscow for 
the first time — do you remember, at the beginning of 
June? — I was absent from the clinic for 3 days. When I 
returned from Kiev he was very angry and asked me, 
‘Where were you? Why did you go away?’ The third was 
also a fireman. Maybe he did not understand the danger 
he was in, maybe he understood, or maybe he did 
everything especially so as not to pay attention to the 
threat on his life. His behavior was very touching— 
during rounds he always asked me, ‘How are things 
going, doctor, how do you feel?’” 

Two of these died, one lived... 

“What feelings were you governed by when you decided 
to come to the Soviet Union?” 

“First of all, I am a doctor, and I know about the possible 
consequences of such an accident. Thus I considered it 
necessary to offer my help. Political differences do not 
concern me as a member of the medical profession. Our 
first obligation is to save people and to help them. 
Moreover, similar accidents can occur not only in the 
USSR but in the U.S.A. and other countries as well. And 
naturally, I hope that we will be able to expect the same 
kind of sympathy and help from the Soviet people.” 

“What do you think, is it possible to make an analogy 
between Doctor Hammer’s visit to our country in 1921 
and your visit today?” 

“In a certain sense, yes. It is true, Hammer at that time 
was involved in the problems of fighting typhus, whereas 
we are struggling against the nuclear threat. The circum¬ 
stances are completely different but their essence is the 
same. The doctors of different countries help each other. 
In this sense nothing has changed. But the situations, of 
course, bear no comparison. Just as in 1921 the very idea 
of an accident in an atomic reactor was absolutely 
unimaginable, now it is impossible for us to imagine a 
typhus epidemic on the scale of the one in 1921. Human¬ 
ity has learned to overcome all obstacles on its path...” 

“But in doing this it creates new problems,” 

“It will always be like that (Dr. Gale laughs). And today 
it is difficult for us to imagine what kinds of problems 
will plague mankind in 60 years.” 

“During your present trip you brought your children. 
Does this mean that their being here is safe?” 

“Many people feel that Kiev has been totally abandoned 
by its residents or that children have been completely 
evacuated. One of the reasons 1 came here with my 
family was my desire to emphasize once again that the 
situation is totally under control and that the patients 
have received the needed help. I had no doubt about the 
safety of my visit to Kiev. I would not have brought my 
children under any circumstances if there had been even 
the minutest potential danger. I think that it is easier for 
people to understand such an action than a whole series 
of medical pronouncements and complicated generaliza¬ 

“Do you feel that the situation in Kiev is improving?” 

“Of course. Radiation levels will continue to decrease. 
Some things require special attention. For example, the 
problem of protecting the water. But all measures are 
being taken to protect Kiev. For example, artesian wells 
have been created, alternative sources of water supply 
have been determined and I feel that the situation is 
being fully controlled. In these questions I depend fully 
on my Soviet colleagues. I do not believe that they would 
subject their children and themselves to the effects of 
radiation, which they would consider unacceptable.” 

“Are you satisfied with the information you have 

“From the time of my first trip to the Soviet Union, 
particularly to Kiev, I have been surprised how honest 
and open we are with our Soviet colleagues. I must 
especially emphasize that many of us were deeply 
affected by the communication of the Politburo of the 
CPSU Central Committee concerning an investigation 
on the reasons for the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear 
Power Plant. I feel that the assessment of the accident 
was completely truthful. It was probably even more 
direct and open than we expected and this gladdens me 

1 February 1988 


deeply. I hope, and more than that, I am sure that your 
analysis of the medical information will be just as 
complete and honest as the analysis of the physical 
reasons for the accident.” 

“Would you like to come to Kiev again?” 

“Not only do I want to, I will be in Kiev again. I will 
return to your city in October, when the exhibit of works 
from Armand Hammer’s collection opens.” 

Robert Gale kept his word. It was fall, it was the same 
airport, it was an American airplane, but smaller than 
the Boeing, and on its tail were the markings, “2 OXV.” 
Accompanying Doctor Gale was the popular American 
singer and composer John Denver, who sings his ballads 
in “country” style. Armand Hammer had entrusted 
Doctor Gale to open the exhibit, “Chef d’Oeuvres of 
Five Centuries.” In speaking at the opening ceremony, 
he said: 

“Chernobyl has become a reminder for all of us about 
the fact that the world must do away with any possiblity 
of the chance of nuclear war once and for all.” 

...Later, in the evening of that same day there was a 
concert in the Ukraina palace, all proceeds of which went 
into the fund to aid Chernobyl. The words of John 
Denver about the Piskarevskoye Cemetery in Leningrad 
sounded very sincere and emotional — after visiting the 
cemetery he wrote a song in which he praised the 
strength and bravery of the Soviet people and their love 
for their homeland...The audience listened with great 
liking to the pure voice of this sandy-headed fellow from 
Colorado. “I want everyone to know that I respect and 
love the Soviet people,” said John Denver. “For me it is 
very important to be here in the Soviet Union and to sing 
for you, and not just to sing but to share my music with 
you. I want everyone to know that I feel a great respect 
for the residents of Kiev and the residents of Chernobyl 
— I admire their courage, their bravery.” John Denver 
was applauded not only by thousands of Kievans but by 
Doctor Gale and his wife as well. Then there was a 
farewell dinner—somewhat sad, as always when you part 
with good friends. And then, when it was already night, 
we all went out to the shore of the Dnepr and sang our 
American friends our folk song, “Reve ta stogne Dnipr 
Shirokiy.” Both Gale and Denver listened attentively 
and then Denver pensively asked, “Where’s Cher¬ 

We pointed to the north, into the darkness, to where the 
Dnepr took its fall waters. 

‘‘How People are Tested...” 

In listening to the melodic and very human songs of John 
Denver I thought about Vladimir Vysotsky. I remem¬ 
bered a fall day in 1968 in Kiev. The leaves were falling 
from the apple trees of the well-known Aleksandr Dovz¬ 
henko Park on the movie studios bearing his name. I was 

strolling near Shchorsovskiy Pavilion, expecting 
Vysotsky. I had seen him in the movie, “Vertical,” and I 
thought that 1 would recognize him immediately. But 
when a short, beardless, puny person with brown hair 
and in a leather jacket appeared, looking considerably 
younger than the hero of “Vertical,” it was only at the 
last moment that I guessed that it was he. I thus guessed 
that a guitar was hanging on his back. During those days 
the film “Quarantine” was being filmed according to my 
film script. The film describes how a group of doctors of 
a scientific-research laboratory become infected with the 
virus of a dangerous disease. In the film we attempted to 
study the characters of people and to fashion their 
behavior in an extreme situation. The subject of the film 
was to a large degree theoretical, almost phantastic, but 
the characters of the doctors were taken from life. 
Vysotsky agreed to write a song for our film, and director 
S. Tsybulnik, who was not in Kiev during those days, 
gave me the task of working on this song. 

We exchanged several words and went to the pavilion 
where everything was ready for recording. And when 
Vysotsky began to sing his song, I suddenly understood 
why he was difficult to recognize in real life — the feeling 
of monumentality that marked his screen heroes was 
created by his well-known voice with its raspiness, and 
by his frenzied temperament. The miracle of the trans¬ 
formation occurred literally right before our eyes as soon 
as the first chords of the guitar were heard. I liked the 
song very much and we immediately used it in the film. 
It was performed by the wonderful actor and singer Yura 
Kamornyy, who later died tragically...The recording by 
Vladimir Vysotsky is preserved on my cassette tape. 
Here is that song: 

The volleys of the equipment grew silent long ago, 
Only the sunlight is above us. 

How are people tested 
When there is no more war? 

Frequently we hear 
Now, as before: 

“Would you go with him on reconnaissance? 

No or yes?” 

The armor-piercer will not cry out now 
There will be no burial behind the door 
And it seems that everything is so calm. 

And now there is nowhere to reveal oneself. 
Frequently we hear 
Now, as before: 

“Would you go with him on reconnaissance? 

No or yes?” 

Peace is only a dream, I know. 

Get ready, set and fight. 

There is a peaceful advanced detachment. 
Misfortune, and danger, and risk. 

Frequently we hear 
Now, as before: 

“Would you go with him on reconnaissance? 

No or yes?” 

1 February 1988 


In the fields the mines have been detonated, 

But we are not in a field of flowers. 

In searching for the stars 

Do not throw the depths from the reckoning. 

That’s why we frequently hear, 

If a misfortune arises: 

“Would you go with him on reconnaissance? 

No or yes?” 

During the days of the Chernobyl events I often remem- 
berd this courageous song and the question posed in it: 
“How are people tested if there is no war?” 

L. Kovalevskaya: “On 8 May we left a village in Polesskiy 
Rayon for Kiev, for Borispolskiy Airport. I sent my 
mother and children to Tyumen. I had little money by 
then and what I had left I gave out at the airport to our 
Pripyat natives. Some I gave a 3-rouble note, others — 2 
roubles. Women with children were crying, I felt sorry 
for them. I left myself a rouble to get to Kiev. The ticket 
from Kiev tp Borispolye costs 80 kopecks. I was all 
”dirty“ and my slacks ”stank.“ I was standing at the taxi 
stop, telephoning friends — one was not at home, the 
other had gone away. One address remained. I thought to 
myself — I’ll take a taxi and go there, telling the taxi 
driver that my friends will pay for me. And if they are 
not there I will write down his coordinates and send him 
the fare later. I was standing there. A person came up to 
me, stood behind me in line and asked, ”What time is 
it?“ You know, the way fellows come up and ask a 
question in order to become acquainted. I was standing 
there angry, ugly, dirty, unwashed and unkempt...! 
looked at his hand to see if he was wearing a watch. He 
was not. Then I told him what time it was. I don’t know 
why, but everyone always knew that we were from 
Chernobyl. People didn’t know much about Pripyat, 
everyone said, ”ChernobyI.“ Either by the eyes, or by the 
clothes, I don’t know why. But they guessed without fail. 
And the fellow behind me in line asked, ‘Tell me, are you 
from Chernobyl?’ ‘What, is it noticeable?’ I answered 
angrilily. ‘Yes, it is. And where are you going?’ I 
answered, ‘I don’t know, I’m afraid it will be useless to go 
there,’ And he asked, ‘What, don’t you have somewhere 
to spend the night?’ ‘Nowhere.’ He took me by the arm 
and said, ‘Let’s go.’ ‘I’m not going anywhere with you,’ I 
said. You know, I thought to myself that he is a lout who 
will take me to his apartment and so forth...1 know about 
these things. No. He got in a taxi with me and took me to 
the Moskva Hotel. He paid for the taxi and for the hotel. 
Then he took me to his workplace where an old woman 
was on duty, fed me and took me back. I fixed myself up, 
washed, and only then learned his last name—Slavuta, 
Aleksandr Sergeyevich. He works in the republic’s soci¬ 
ety of book lovers.” 

A. Perkovskaya: “In early May we began sending children 
to pioneer camps. What I did not come up against here! 
People knew that the assignments would be to the Artek 
and Molodaya Gvardiya. Parents began coming to see 
me. They put pressure on me to send their children to the 
Artek. Well, I spoke severely to such parents, I won’t 

hide it. Frequently I had to take sins upon my soul. The 
situation was as follows: We were to gather for camp 
children who had completed the second grade and up to 
and inclusive of the ninth grade. People came to me and 
said, ‘What about 10th graders—aren’t they children? 
And where do we put the 10th graders?’ Imagine a 
mother coming to me, she is alone, without a husband, 
she is on duty and her child is 6 years old. Does he have 
to have finished the second grade? What is she going to 
do with him? Naturally I wrote a different date of birth 
for this child without a guilty conscience. Later, when I 
went to the pioneer camps I heard many rebukes. But 
excuse me, I had no other recourse. 

“In general we made up these lists. Then the Kievans 
began calling and asking us to take their children to 
camp. And so on. When I began examining the lists I 
found all kinds of forgeries in them. I had to announce 
on the radio that parents had to come with their pass¬ 
ports and their Pripyat registrations... 

“In August I went to the Artek and Molodaya Gvardiya 
— I was taking children there. And can you imagine? I 
discovered an almost grown girl from another city. She 
had nothing to do with Pripyat. I even discovered a girl 
from Poltava Oblast. I have no idea how these children 
got into the Artek and Molodaya Gvardiya. But they, 
like the others, spent two sessions at the camp... 

“When in early May I brought pregnant women to 
Belaya Tserkov, a grandee, the third secretary of the 
party gorkom, came out and said, ‘We must think in the 
government way.’ They met our women in counter¬ 
plague and counter-gas outfits and carried out dosimet¬ 
ric readings in the street. And in that same Belaya 
Tserkov children were not received until evening 
because there was no radiation supervisor there. 

“And when I was resting after the hospital in Alusht, my 
friend warned me, ‘Don’t mention where you are from. 
Tell them you are from Stavropol. It will be better that 
way.’ I did not believe her. In addition, it is below my 
dignity to hide where I am from. Two young girls from 
Tula and Kharkov sat down at my table. They asked, 
‘Where are you from?’ ‘From Pripyat.’ They vanished 
immediately. Later ‘friends in misery’ were seated next 
to me — women from Chernigov.” 

A. Esaulov: “In our city at the communications center on 
29 April telephone operator Nadya Miskevich fainted as 
a result of stress. She had been sitting at the telephone 
lines all the time. And the director of the communica¬ 
tions center, Lyudmila Petrovna Serenko, was also a fine 
person. She was the first in the city to organize watches. 
There was a case in which a lunatic cut out an electrical 
wire at the substation. He said, ‘I have radiation sick¬ 
ness. Take me out, otherwise I will turn off the power.’ 
He turned off the power. So Lyudmila Petrovna imme¬ 
diately shifted to the emergency feed. This is a Woman 
with a capital W. 

1 February 1988 


“And here is another case. The atomic power station’s 
deputy director for daily life and social questions, Ivan 
Nikolayevich Tsarenko, came to me and said, ‘Help me, 
Aleksandr Yuryevich. We must bury Shashenk—the 
operator who died at the fourth unit. He has to be put 
into a casket and buried, but Varivod from the building 
administration will not give me a bus. It is our only one.’ 
Well, here it is difficult to judge who is right and who is 
guilty. There was only one bus and it was needed by the 
living to deal with some kinds of vitally important 

“We went to Varivod. I said, ‘Listen, why are you 
arguing about foolishness? The man must be paid his last 
duty. Give me the bus.’ He said to me, ‘I won’t.’ I said, 
‘What do you mean, parasite, by not obeying Soviet 
authorities?’ And he said, ‘I won’t give it to you anyway. 
Cut me up or eat me—I won’t give it up.’ 

“Well, then I went out on the road and stopped the first 
bus that came my way, gave it to Varivod and took his 
bus for the funeral...” 

Yu. Dobrenko: “After the evacuation of Pripyat about 
5,000 people remained — people who had been assigned 
various tasks by different organizations. But there were 
others who did not agree with the evacuation and 
remained in the city it seems illegally. Primarily this was 
retirees. Things were difficult for them, it took a long 
time to evacuate them from the city. I was evacuating a 
retired person on 20 May. He was an old man who had 
a decoration, a participant in the Battle of Stalingrad, 
How had he survived? He went down to the military, 
took a few respirators and even slept with them on. He 
did not turn on the light so that no one would notice him 
at night. He had dry bread and a supply of water. When 
I took him out the water in the city had already been shut 
off because it was needed for decontamination. There 
was electricity and he watched television. 

“Here is how he was found. His son, who had been 
evacuated, came to us and said, ‘My father was left in the 
city. I did not say anything for a long time but I know 
there is no water now and he is still there. Let’s go get 
him,’ We came to him but he said, ‘Well, all right, since 
there is no water I will go with you.’ He put on his 
respirator, grabbed some buckwheat in order to be able 
to cook some soup. In the villages there were also such 
old men and women who did not want to leave their 
homes for anything. We called them ‘partisans.’ It is true 
that there were different people among them. There were 
some whose children simply had forgotten them. They 
did not take them with them. Or the children had easily 
agreed — stay here, they said, and protect the house and 

Sofiya Fedorovna Gorskaya, director of school number 5 
in the city of Pripyat: “Not all the teachers were able to 
withstand the ordeals they were subject to. Not all. 
Because not every one turned out to be a pedagogue. In 
the process of evacuation some left their classes, left their 

children. This was very painful for the children. This was 
especially true of the upperclassmen and seniors. They 
were very hurt that other teachers came. The teachers 
who left, leaving their children, explain this by the fact 
that they are inexperienced, that they did not know how 
to deal with this situation, or what to do. After they 
heard on television that things were normal they came 
back. That is a big lesson for us in the training of future 
teachers, those whom we select from among our young 
people and train for 2 years for matriculation in the 
pedagogical institute. Among the teachers there were 
‘activists’ who spoke most loudly at meetings but who 
then disappeared. Yes, there were.” 

Valeriy Vukolovich Golubenko, military director of mid¬ 
dle school number 4 in the city of Pripyat: “When the 
evacuation was in progress we did not move the school 
journals or anything else. After all, we were leaving for a 
short time and hoped to return to the city immediately. 
Well, then later when the school year came to an end we 
had to write school-leaving certificates for the tenth 
graders. We still did not have our journals and we 
proposed that they write their own evaluations. We said 
to them, ‘You probably remember your own grades.’ 
When we looked, not a single student had elevated his 
grade, and some had even lowered theirs.” 

Mariya Kirillovna Golubenko, director of middle school 
number 4 in the city of Pripyat: 

“After we were already evacuated, here in Poleskiy, I was 
named a member of the committee on packages for our 
Pripyat gorispolkom. What completely stunned me was 
the kindness of our people, which we felt literally phys¬ 
ically while unsealing packages, sorting gifts and reading 
letters. We give some of the things to boarding houses for 
the elderly, to those places where Pripyat old people who 
are alone now find themselves; some of the things to 
homes for mothers and children, and some to the pioneer 
camps, in particular clothing for children. Many books 
arrived — we gave those to the library for the special 
collective efforts of builders and operators of the nuclear 
power station. Here in the room next door there are 
about 200 packages and still another 300 packages are 
lying at the post office in Kiev. We receive very many 
letters from children. Leningrad’s children have sent 
many packages with books, children’s clothing, dolls, 
office supplies, and every package includes a letter and 
every letter expresses alarm and concern. Although these 
children are just second and third graders and far from 
the accident, they understand what kind of grief it 
involves. There are many packages from Uzbekistan and 
Kazakhstan with gifts of figs, dried fruit, peanuts, home¬ 
made sugar and tea. Retired people are sending soap, 
towels, sheets, and children most often send books, dolls 
and games.” 

But I ask the reader not to give in too much to good and 
tender emotions which perhaps arose under the influ¬ 
ence of the story of the kind packages and letters, about 
the decent and sincere people. We should not weaken. 

1 February 1988 


Because the Chernobyl events also gave rise to some¬ 
thing else — the traditional masterpieces of native 
dim-wittedness and bureaucratism that was satirized 
long ago by Saltykov-Shchedrin. 

Let me give one example: 

“The Yalta city council of people’s deputies of Crimea 
Oblast. 16 October 1986. To the chairman of the 
ispolkom of the Pripyat city council of people’s deputies, 
comrade V. I. Voloshko. 

“In accordance with the directive of the USSR Ministry 
of Health No 110 of 6 September 1986 the ispolkom of 
the Yalta city council of people’s deputies has made a 
decision on 26 September 1986, Number 362 (I), con¬ 
cerning providing an apartment in Crimea Oblast for 
citizen N. M. Miroshnichenko for a family of four (he, 
his wife, two sons) evacuated from the zone of the 
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. We request that you 
send us a certificate concerning the handing over to local 
authorities by N. M. Miroshnichenko of three-room, well 
outfitted apartment number 68 with a living area of 41.4 
square meters in house number 7 on Geroyev Stalin- 
grada Street in the city of Pripyat. 

“[Signed] Deputy chairman of the gorispolkom, P. G. 

Isn’t this sharp? The entire country knows HOW and TO 
WHOM the residents of Pripyat (see chapter entitled 
“Evacuation”) handed over their well outfitted apart¬ 
ments. But only in sunny Yalta they think that the 
apartment with 41.4 square meters of living space aban¬ 
doned by N. M. Miroshnichenko on 27 April 1986 will, in 
circumvention of the established order, existing resolu¬ 
tions and elevated radiation levels, be occupied by some 
criminals or relatives of the aforementioned citizen. 

Truly—“how are people tested?” 

The atomic blast above Chernobyl with its blinding light 
illuminated good and evil, intelligence and stupidity, 
truth and phariseeism, sympathy and schadenfreude, 
honesty and lies, disinteredness and greed — all man’s 
virtues and vices hidden in the souls of our compatriots 
as well as in those of people far from the borders of our 

I remember the May issues of the popular American 
magazines, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT and 
NEWSWEEK — the ominous purple colors of the cover, 
the hammer and sickle, the symbol of the atom and the 
black smoke above the entire world. Screaming head¬ 
lines — “Nightmare in Russia”; “Deadly Emissions 
from Chernobyl”; “The Chernobyl Cloud. How the 
Kremlin Described it and the Actual Risk”; and “Cher¬ 
nobyl: New Concerns About Health. Dangerous Famil¬ 
iarization Tour of Kiev.” And the first apocalyptic- 
solemn words of the report: “This was the 
unprecedented nightmare of the 20th century...” I admit 

that sensational headlines and a hysterical tone are 
traditions for the American press, which tries to attract 
the reader at any cost. That is so. But even making 
allowances for this in these materials it was impossible to 
find simple human compassion for those who suffered as 
a result of the accident, and behind the ominous medi¬ 
cal-genetic predictions one did not feel a shadow of 
alarm for the lives and health of the children of Pripyat 
and Chernobyl. I was especially surprised by the coldly 
political tone of an article by Felicity Beringer in the 
newspaper THE NEW YORK TIMES of 5 June 1987 — 
this woman (woman!), manipulating her pen with the 
characteristics of a robot, as if cutting with a scalpel into 
a live being, reported from the Artek Pioneer Camp, 
where the children of Pripyat were living at the time. 
Nothing in her words spoke of the eternal womanly, 
maternal compassion — only of a hateful propoganda- 
type lack of understanding of all that was told to her by 
11 and 12 year old children who were stunned by what 
had happened and who missed their homes, where they 
would never return... 

But then in the foreign reports on Kiev radio I became 
acquainted with dozens of letters that had arrived during 
those days from the United States and Great Britain. 
And I thought how much the common people in these 
countries as well as here stand above primitive propo- 
ganda stereotypes. 

In July 1986 the fireman’s section of Chernobylskiy 
Rayon, the place where “Grandpa” Khmel and his 
comrades worked in April, received an unusual gift from 
their comrades in the U.S.A. — a memorial plaque with 
a message from the 28th Fireman’s Division of the city 
of Schenectady in the name of 170,000 members of the 
fireman’s associations of the U.S. and Canada. Here it is: 

“The fireman. Often he is the first to arrive where the 
danger is. That is what happened in Chernobyl on 26 
April 1986. We, the firemen of Schenectady, state of New 
York, admire the courage of our brothers in Chernobyl 
and deeply mourn the losses they have borne. There is a 
special brotherhood among the firemen of the world, 
people who respond to the call of duty with exceptional 
bravery and courage.” 

In presenting this message to Soviet representatives in 
New York, the vice president of the International Asso¬ 
ciation of Firemen, James Makgovan of New York, and 
Captain Armand Kapulo from the city of Schenectady, 
spoke with great respect about our people in the name of 
all honest Americans, who they emphasized are in the 
majority. They recalled the principle adhered to by 
decent people of the entire world — symphathize with 
those in misfortune, help them, do everything possible to 
alleviate their misery as quickly as possible. 

...To the question posed by Vladimir Vysotsky, “How 
are people tested if there is no more war?” in 1986 we 
could give a simple answer — people are tested accord¬ 
ing to their attitude toward Chernobyl. 

1 February 1988 


What a shame that Vladimir Vysotsky was no longer 
with us, that his sorrowful and courageous songs about 
Chernobyl were not written. About those who went into 
the fire. Vysotsky was very needed there, in the Zone. 

The Last Warning 

Exactly 100 years ago, on 2 June 1887, visiting in 
Roslavlskiy Uyezd [lowest administrative division] of 
Smolenskaya District about 300 kilometers from Cher¬ 
nobyl, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadskiy, who became a 
leading Soviet scientist, academician and first president 
of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, wrote to his wife: 

“The observations of Estred, Ampierre and Lents have 
laid the foundation for the study of electromagnetism, 
which has inexpressibly greatly increased the powers of 
man and which in the future promises to completely alter 
the structure of his life. All of this arose out of observa¬ 
tions about the special characteristics of magnetized 
metal...I have a question — do other minerals have 
similar properties?...and if they do, won’t this open up a 
whole series of new powers for us, won’t it give us the 
opportunity for new applications, won’t it increase the 
power of people tenfold?...Isn’t is possible to conjure up 
unknown, frightening forces in different embodi¬ 

This quote is taken from an interesting article by I. I. 
Molchalov, “First Warnings About the Threat of 
Nuclear Omnicide: Pierre Curie and V. 1. Vernadsky,” 
which was published in the third issue of the journal 
NIKI in 1983. Omnicide is a relatively new term meaning 
the universal killing of people. 

The letter by the young 24-year old graduate of the 
physics and mathematics department of Peterburg Uni¬ 
versity 10 years before the discovery of radioactivity by 
A. Bequerel, probably contained the first warning in the 
history of mankind concerning the approaching new era 
which has so painfully touched us in Chernobyl, prom¬ 
ising complete destruction of mankind (omnicide) in the 
case of the military use of nuclear weapons. 

All of his life V. I, Vernadsky worried first about the 
unclear and then about the clearer and clearer prospects 
for the use of this frightening force: 

“We, the children of the 19th century, have at each step 
become accustomed to the force of steam energy and 
electricity; we know how thoroughly they have changed 
and continue to change the entire social structure of 
human society. And now we have before us in the 
phenomenon of radioactivity the source of atomic ener¬ 
gy, which surpasses a millionfold all those sources of 
energy which were pictured in man’s imagination. 
Unwillingly with trembling and anticipation we turn our 
eyes to the new force that is being revealed before man’s 

consciousness. What does it promise us in its coming 
development?...It is with hope and apprehension that we 
look at our new protector and ally” (1910). 

“Radium is the source of energy, it works in a powerful 
and still little-understood manner on the body, bringing 
about incomprehensible but startling changes around us 
and within us...You experience a strange feeling when 
you see these new forms of material extracted from the 
depths of the earth through the genius of man. These are 
the first seeds of the power of the future. What will 
happen when we will be able to obtain it in any quanti¬ 
ty?” (1911). 

And so during those days when radiation supervisors still 
walked the streets of Kiev and there was serious discus¬ 
sion about the question of carrying out complete defoli¬ 
ation (freeing of leaves) of the famous Kievan chestnuts 
and poplars, I came to the house in which Vladimir 
Ivanovich Vernadsky worked in 1919-1921. On the build¬ 
ing housing the Presidium of the UkSSR Academy of 
Sciences there is a memorial plaque in memory of this 
brilliant man. It seemed as if he were standing at the 
window of the president’s office and inquisitively look¬ 
ing at us from the depths of Kiev’s past when cabbies 
clattered past this house with its square beams and when 
hardly anyone in the work had heard the word radiation. 
And no one at all listened to the prophecy of the scientst. 

I came to see the vice president of the UkSSR Academy 
of Sciences, the reknowned Soviet botanist and ecologist, 
Academician Konstantin Merkuryevich Sytnik. Here is 
what he said: 

“This is a tragedy, a great human tragedy, which has 
directly touched hundreds of thousands of people. A new 
ecological factor has come into play. I would not over¬ 
state this, but it is worse to underestimate it. Of course 
we should not permit ourselves, having become involved 
in discussing the Chernobyl problem, to forget about the 
fact that today the factories of the Ukraine continue to 
send up smoke, that the pollution of the Dnepr water 
basin with chemicals and metals is continuing. However, 
a new factor related to the accident does exist, and this is 
the factor of negative attributes. 

“People are very concerned about radiation’s existence, 
and this is natural. Most of the population has never 
been interested in what the outside limits are for nitrous 
oxide or anhydrous sulphide. However, today they are 
very concerned about the levels of alpha, beta and 
gamma rays. This can be explained by the fact that for 
years we have talked about the tragedies of Hiroshima 
and Nagasaki and have discussed in detail the enormous 
danger of radiactivity for man. People gradually accu¬ 
mulated all of this in their consciousness and their 
attitude toward radioactivity is that it is a factor with 

1 February 1988 


much risk involved. Here a certain psychological phe¬ 
nomenon, a certain gap between emotion and knowl¬ 
edge, exists. Everyone knows that industrial emissions 
into the environment include carcinogens, but this does 
not give rise to special emotion. 

“Radioactivity is another matter. People’s attitude is 
extreme alarm — people fear for their children and 
grandchildren because we have said a great deal about 
long-term genetic consequences. This has to be looked at 
by both scientists and the means of mass information. 

“We must objectively and soberly explain the existing 
situation without shrugging off people’s alarming ques¬ 
tions. We should not fear bringing about a panic because 
the reason for panic is a lack of information. Yet we just 
repeat one thing, like parrots — the food is clean, it is 
checked and so on. But if I myself do not believe this, if 
I myself do not drink milk for several months how can I 
assure people about the safety of a product? Go to a train 
station and look at what people are taking from Moscow. 
Bags full of produce. Most of the people do not trust 
what we write. 

“For example, in their overly-optimistic broadcasts in 
June-July physicians kept insisting that it was safe to 
swim in the Dnepr in the Kiev area. I felt at that time 
that one should not swim there at all. My reason was that 
at the shore, in the silt, there was a large accumulation of 
radioactive nuclear particles at that time. Nothing would 
have happened to Kievans if for one year they abstained 
from swimming or did not go into the forest to pick 

“At the same time, of course, we should not complicate 
this matter. Why? Because within nature there is an 
enormous process of dilution, of dispersion of radioac¬ 
tive particles, and this saves us. Recently how often has 
mother nature been our savior. I am speaking about the 
trees, the land and the waters of the Kiev sea which 
absorbed most of the radioactive emissions. How much 
we have cursed the Kiev sea, hanging over our city, but 
in this situation it has turned out to be a very useful 
collector, absorbing in its silt a portion of the radioactive 
particles which then settled to the bottom. The sea 
turned out to be radiation-intensive, it absorbed a por¬ 
tion of the particles and we hope that in the final analysis 
there will be a diffusion of radioactive particles to 
insignificant concentrations. 

“The question of water is more familiar to me because I 
am the chairman of a workers’ group on monitoring 
(tracking—Yu. Shch.) the condition of the water in the 
Dnepr basin. The Dnepr is an important element in all of 
our concerns, and perhaps even the most important. 
After all, the water of the Dnepr basin is utilized by a 
population of 35 million in the Ukraine. Immediately 
after the accident a number of urgent measures were 
taken to protect water sources and I can say that the 
population of the Ukraine receives good-quality drink¬ 
ing water. I say this with complete assurance. 

“At the same time we must be ready for any unexpected 
occurrences. To this end we together with the Institute of 
Cybernetics imeni V. M. Glushkov have created a math¬ 
ematical model for studying and predicting the condi¬ 
tion of the water in the Dnepr basin. This model foresees 
different, even to the utmost extreme, possible situa¬ 
tions; an entire complex of special measures has been 
developed for each situation. But so far extreme situa¬ 
tions have not arisen... 

“What are the lessons of Chernobyl? Recently we held a 
routine scientific conference on the problems of Cher¬ 
nobyl and its consequences. No fewer than 100 people 
gathered, all with figures, graphs and computations. 
Physicists, biologists, geneticists. There were interesting 
reports, and among them very optimistic ones. And this 
was not that forced optimism about which Chingiz 
Aytmatov wrote. Remember, in ”Plakha“ [Block]: ‘How 
long are we going to make assurances that even our 
catastrophes are the best?’ No, within our own midst we 
are very honest. Still, a series of objective data still 
makes us optimistic. But we have to be able to talk about 
this in such a way that people willbelieve us. We have to 
find scientists who speak convincingly, with facts and 
figures, in order to instill trust in listeners and television 

“And of course one of the basic lessons — the moral 
lesson. In connection with the accident in Chernobyl 
there has been a sharp increase in the bitterness toward 
and disappointment in science. After all you also talked 
about this at the conference of Ukrainian writers?” 

“I did.” 

“But the problem is not so much with science itself as 
with the moral qualities of some scientists. Very fre¬ 
quently we have the following situation. There are 2-3 
scientists with approximately the same rank and title. 
One of them says categorically ”no“ but the other two 
say ”yes,“ What should the person making the decision 
do? Naturally he picks the answer that appeals to him 
most. Unfortunately, even the scientist who says ‘no’ 
does not always try to defend his point of view, to fight 
for the truth, to speak at high-level forums and so forth. 
Even he does not want to experience spiritual discomfort 
or to conflict with powerful people and departments. 

“Probably the most important lesson of Chernobyl con¬ 
sists of the fact that any, even the smallest moral flaw, in 
a scientist, any compromises in conscience must be 
severely punished. But we have forgotten that at one 
time we did not shake the hand of a dishonorable person. 
Now the responsibility of scientists for their own discov¬ 
eries and for the expert opinion on large structures has 
increased a thousandfold. The scientist must undergo 
trial by fire for his ideas, his convictions. But do you see 
this frequently?” 

1 February 1988 

These are the types of conversations that were carried on 
in the building illuminated with the name of V. L 
Vernadsky, who in 1922 said: 

“The scientist is neither a machine nor an army soldier 
fulfilling orders without argument and without under¬ 
standing what these orders lead to and why they are 
being carried out...For work on atomic energy it is 
essential to recognize one’s responsibility for what is 
discovered. I would like this moral element to be recog¬ 
nized in scientific work, in work that would seem to be so 
far removed from the spiritual elements of the human 
individual, such as work on the atomic question.” 

Chernobyl routes brought me to Moscow too, to the 
place where 40 years ago, on 25 December 1946, the first 
uranium-graphite F-1 atomic reactor began operating in 
Europe — “physically first.” At that time it was located 
in a suburb of Moscow, Pokrovsko-Streshnevo, with a 
thick pine forest. Incidentally, the pines are still there. 
Now the Institute of Atomic Energy imeni I. V. Kurcha¬ 
tov is located there. 

I came to see Valeriy Alekseyevich Legasov, academi¬ 
cian, member of the Presidium of the USSR Academy of 
Science, first deputy director and director of an institute 
department and recipient of the Lenin and USSR state 
prizes. Valeriy Alekseyevich’s main scientific interests 
are related to nuclear technology and hydrogen energet¬ 
ics, plasma chemistry and the synthesis of the combina¬ 
tion of inert gases. But in 1986 the name of academician 
Legasov resounded through the world in connection with 
the elimination of the accident at Chernobyl. Valeriy 
Alekseyevich came to Pripyat during the first day of the 
accident and was made a member of the government 

I became acquainted with Academician Legasov long 
before I actually met him. Working on the scientific- 
publicistic move, “Introduction,” (movie studio — 
Kievnauchfilm), I, sitting in the clipping room, ran the 
film of the interview of Valeriy Alekseyevich with the 
camera crew several dozen times. The following words 
sank into my soul: 

“I would like to focus attention on the fact that for many 
years this disease — inadequate attention to the new, an 
inability to illuminate the new — has become an chronic 
disease and it is not so easy to eradicate. It has become 
chronic because during the childhood years not much 
effort is made to value the new and to distinguish the 
new from the old. If you go into any class to listen to how 
the lesson is going, regardless of whether it is a human¬ 
istic or scientific subject, as a rule you will find that 
children are simply given explanations — what a good 
book it is, what a precise equation, what a good experi¬ 
ment. But not once will you hear the question, ‘How 
would you do it better? What aspects of this experiment 
are not good? How is this book unsuccessful?’ 


“But after all it is with the rejection of that which seems 
to be good and idealistic that creativity begins, that there 
is striving to do something better. Our schools are more 
likely to teach us to use what is available and not to reject 
that which has been achieved or to create something 

I thought this idea was very important, that it revealed 
one of the reasons for many of our misfortunes, includ¬ 
ing in Chernobyl. Because our schools puts all their 
efforts only into educating obedient, well-mannered, 
efficient and dependable boys and girls, little appeasers, 
without educating in them the spirit of criticism or an 
objective approach that considers all pros and cons as 
regards natural phenomena and social reality. Standard 
thinking is included, whereas criticism (and more often 
lack of faith and cynicism) are taught to the young 
person in the street and sometimes by their own familiar 
books. But often a schoolboy is left alone to come to 
terms with all of this. 

It was very interesting to talk to Valeiy Aleksandrovich 
Legasov about the lessons of the accident at the Cher¬ 
nobyl Nuclear Power Station: 

“It so happens that even before the Chernobyl accident I 
was involved in questions of industrial safety and in 
particular in the safety of atomic power stations. In 
connection with the bombing by Israel of a nuclear 
research center in Iraq, scientific and wider circles dis¬ 
cussed the consequences of a possible attack on the 
atomic power plant. This was the theme of our article in 
the journal PRIRODA (V.A. Legasov, L. P. Feoktistov, 
1.1. Kuzmin: ’’Nuclear Energy and International Securi- 
ty,“ PRIRODA, 1985, No 6). Already at that time, in 
examining this question we came to the conclusion that 
it is madness to have a war when there is a fairly high 
concentration of atomic power stations. Extremely large 
regions would be radiation-infested for a long time. 

“But for every judicious individual another question 
arose: And what if we ruled out atomic energy? What if 
instead we set up some kinds of power equivalents in the 
form of gas, coal or fuel oil power stations? And so we 
began to discuss it, I repeat, before the Chernobyl 
accident. Let’s say a bomb hit a nuclear power station. 
This is bad. But if it hits not the atomic station but a 
power station built instead of the nuclear plant? We saw 
that this would be bad too. Explosions, fires and the 
formation of poisonous compounds would kill a large 
number of people and would make noticeable regions 
unuseable, although for a shorter period of time. 

“After such assessments you reach the following point of 
view — things now have to do not so much with the type 
of technology but with its scale and concentration. The 
level of concentration of industrial capacities is such 
today that the destruction of these structures, whether 
accidental or intentional, results in serious consequenc¬ 
es. In its development mankind has created such a 

1 ^ 

1 February 1988 


density of energy sources and various potentially-danger- 
ous components, whether biological, chemical or nucle¬ 
ar, that their conscious or accidental destruction today 
results in great inconveniences. 

“Today the duplication of various objects and the con¬ 
centration of large capacities have become problems. In 
its time a limited number of nuclear plants was put into 
operation, with dependability achieved by the highest 
levels of training of personnel and by the careful adher- 
ance to all technological rules. Here, behind the window, 
the first native reactor is in operation, and it operates 
dependably. But then later, when dependable technical 
solutions proved themselves well, they began to be mass 
produced while at the same time the capacity of theseob- 
jects was increased. But the approach to the small 
number of such structures and to the large number with 
large capacities must be completely different. 

“There was a certain qualitative leap — these structures 
proliferated, they became more powerful but the attitude 
toward operating them deteriorated.” 

“Why did this happen?” 

“I think that inertia was very great. The need for 
electrical energy is enormous. We had to introduce and 
assimilate capacities quickly. And quickly means not 
changing the previously-developed drafts. The number 
of people involved in the manufacture of equipment and 
in its operation grew swiftly. Methods of training and 
education already could not keep up with the pace of 

“It would have been relatively simple if we could have 
identified the enemy in the form of, let us say, the 
nuclear reactor or nuclear energy. But this is not so. And 
even if we reject this technical method and replace it 
with another, that one will not be okay either. It will be 
worse. Here is the thing. Because the enemy is not the 
technology. The enemy does not lie in the type of 
airplane, the type of atomic reactor or the type of energy. 
If we look at this as a large-scale problem, the main 
enemy is the very method of developing and carrying out 
energy or technical processes, which depends on man. 
The most important thing is the human factor. Whereas 
previously we looked at safety technology as a means of 
protecting man from the possible effects of the machine 
or from some kinds of harmful factors, today another 
situation has arisen. 

FROM MAN. Really — from man, in the hands of 
whom shocking power is concentrated. 

“To protect from man in any sense — from the errors of 
the builder, from the errors of the designer, from the 
errors of the operator who is running the technology. 
And this is a completely different philosophy. 

“Today what kind of international tendencies are being 
seen? The number of accidents — if we take the number 
per 1,000 persons or according to other indexes — is 
decreasing. But whereas accidents are less frequent, their 
scale is increasing.” 

“It is like an airplane — previously in a plane crash 14 
died, now 300 may die.” 

“Exactly right. Here is the first conclusion: Chernobyl 
has made it clear that mankind has not hurried to change 
its approach to safety, its philosophy of safety. I must say 
that this is not just a native backwardness. It is an 
international backwardness. Thus we have the Bhopal, 
Chernobyl and Basel tragedies. 

“It would be impossible, improper and foolish to turn 
away from the achievements of man’s genius. To turn 
away from the development of atomic energy, the chem¬ 
ical industry or something else. This is not necessary. But 
two things have to be done. First of all, we must properly 
understand the effect of serious new machines and types 
of technology on the environment and secondly, we must 
develop a system of interaction of man and the machine. 
This is not a problem just for the individual man 
working with this kind of machine but a much more 
universal and important problem. After all, this kind of 
interaction results in serious catastrophes and troubles 
from oversights, foolishness and improper actions. It is 
not important who acted improperly — the head of the 
station or the operator. 

“Today we must seek the optimum system. The opti¬ 
mum in automation, the optimum in solving all organi¬ 
zational and technical questions related to such complex 
technological systems. While doing this we must create 
protective barriers as much as possible for instances in 
which man makes a mistake or machines turn out not to 
be dependable. 

“Here I want to express, for the first time, a perhaps 
unusual idea. Up until now we have been discussing the 
known. We see in hindsight that at every stage there is 
some type of incomplete work or maybe slovenliness. 
This is true at all stages — from development to opera¬ 
tion. These are generally known facts, they are presented 
in the decision of the Politburo of the CPSU Central 
Committee on the reasons for the accident at the Cher¬ 
nobyl Nuclear Power Station. I kept thinking: Why does 
this always occur? 

“And you know, I come to a paradoxical conclusion — I 
do not know whether my colleagues will agree with me or 
whether they will throw stones at me but I conclude that 
it is because we have been greatly carried away by 
technology. Pragmatically. With bare technology. This 
encompasses many questions and not only safety. Let us 
think about it. Why is it that at a time when we were 
much poorer and when the situation was much more 
complex, we were able, in a historically insignificant 
period of time — in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s — to 

1 February 1988 


amaze the entire world with the pace of development of 
new types of equipment and to be well-known for 
quality? After all, the TU-104 was a quality airplane 
when it appeared. The atomic station created by Igor 
Vasilyevich Kurchatov and his companions-in-arms — 
this was a pioneering and good decision. 

“What happened and why? 

“The first attempt was to explain it with some kinds of 
subjective organizational factors. But this is not very 
serious. We are a powerful people with enormous poten¬ 
tial. Every director and every organizational system has 
at one point or another utilized successful solutions and 
less successful solutions, but they could not affect us so 

“And I reached the following paradoxical conclusion: 
That technology of which our people is proud, which 
finished with the flight of Gagarin, was developed by 
people who stood on the shoulders of Tolstoy and 

“That is an amazing conclusion coming from the mouth 
of a technical specialist.” 

“But I think that this is so. People developing technology 
at that time were raised with great humanistic ideas. 
With outstanding literature. With a high level of art. 
With excellent and correct moral values. And with the 
bright political idea of building a new society, with the 
idea that this society is the most progressive. This high 
moral feeling existed in everything — in relations with 
each other, and in attitudes towards mankind, toward 
technology and toward their obligations. All of this was 
included in the education of those people. For them 
technology was simply a means of expressing the moral 
qualities within them. 

“They expressed their morality in technology. Their 
attitude toward the technology they developed and put 
into operation was the very same attitude that was taught 
to them by Pushkin, Tolstoy and Chekhov and that 
governed the rest of their lives. 

“But in subsequent generations which took over many 
engineers stood on the shoulders of ”technocrats“ and 
saw only the technical aspects of the matter. But if 
someone is educated only on technical ideas he can only 
reproduce technology and improve it, but he cannot 
create anything qualitatively new or responsible. 

“I feel that the common key to all that has occurred is 
that for a long time we have ignored the role of the moral 
beginning — the role of our history, of our culture — and 
this is, after all, part of the same chain. All of this has 
resulted in the fact that some of the people could act with 
inadequate responsibility at their posts. But even one 
individual working badly creates a weak link and the 
chain breaks. 

“By the way, if we listen to those directly at fault in the 
accident, in general their goals were the most well- 
intentioned. To fulfill their assignment, to carry out their 

“Valeriy Alekseyevich, did they understand at all what 
they were doing?” 

“They thought they were doing everything correctly and 
well. And so they violated rules in the name of doing 
things better. I think that is the way it was.” 

“But nevertheless did they understand that they were 
violating all of the rules for operating the reactor?” 

“They could not but have understood this. Could not. 
Because they violated basic laws. But someone felt this 
was safe, someone felt that it would be superior to do 
things this way than in the way the instructions stated 
because you see the goal was a worthy one — to get it 
together and complete their assignment during one night 
at any cost. At any cost. 

“It is true, this does not apply to those who with extreme 
irresponsibility allowed the testing and confirmed the 
program for carrying it out. The purpose of the experi¬ 
ment was as follows. In case the delivery of steam to the 
turbo unit is interrupted — this is an emergency situa¬ 
tion — diesel generators are supposed to kick in at the 
power stations. They achieve the necessary parameters 
for supplying electrical energy to the unit not immedi¬ 
ately, but within a dozen seconds. During this time the 
generation of electrical energy must be provided by the 
turbine which has lost its steam but which is still turning 
by inertia. It was necessary to find out whether the 
turbine would continue operating until the diesel gener¬ 
ator reached the necessary parameters. The program for 
this test was extremely carelessly set up; it was not 
coordinated with the station’s physicists, or with the 
reactor’s builders, or with the designers or with the 
respresentatives of Gosatomenergonadzor [State Atomic 
Energy Surveillance Association]. Nevertheless, it was 
confirmed by the senior engineer but then was not 
controlled personally by him and was altered and vio¬ 
lated during the test process. 

“The low technical level, the low level of responsibility 
of these people — this was not a cause but an effect. It 
was a consequence of their low moral level. 

“Usually things are understood in this way: Aha, an 
immoral person is one who allows himself to take bribes, 
for example. But this is an extreme case. But is a person 
moral if he does not want to improve his blueprint, if he 
does not want to sit up at night, worry, does not want to 
seek a better solution? A person who says, ‘Why make an 
effort if I can make a decision that appears to be normal 
professionally although it is not an optimum or the best?’ 
And thus begins the process of dissemination of techni¬ 
cal backwardness. We will not be able to deal with 

1 February 1988 


anything if we do not reestablish a moral attitude toward 
the work we are carrying out, no matter what type of 
work it is — medical, or chemical, or reactor work, or 

“But how do we reestablish it, this moral attitude?” 

After sighing and a long pause: 

“Well, here I cannot be a prophet.” 

“Still, Valeriy Alekseyevich. Imagine that you are the 
minister of education or a man deciding the fate of 
schoolchildren. What would you do?” 

“In part I have already talked about this. We must 
reestablish a feeling of responsibility, a critical attitude, 
a sense of the new. There was a period of time during 
which external circumstances interfered with this. But 
today we have a favorable period for this. Please — 
nothing is interfering with the reestablishment of the 
very best native or national, in our multi-national coun¬ 
try, traditions. No one is interfering with that. But how 
should this be done? Should we increase or decrease the 
proportion of particular subjects? I do not know. But I 
am sure that interesting people must be brought to the 
schools. After all Russia has always been strong in that 
the teacher has usually been looked upon as an ideal by 
his students in terms of moral attitudes. 

“And I would also like to talk about the indivisibility of 
general and technical culture. These are indivisible 
things. If you remove a piece of it that is related to the 
history of our homeland or to our literature, if you 
weaken attention to something, this will without fail 
boomerang to the degree that culture is indivisible. In 
the same way, everything cannot be given to literature 
and art while technology is forgotten. Then we would be 
a helpless society. A natural problem arises — the 
problem of harmony.” 

“Let’s return to Chernobyl. How did you live through 
this event, both as a person and as a specialist? Didn’t 
you have a guilt complex, not of personal guilt, but a 
physicist’s guilt for what had occurred?” 

“I would say this. I had a feeling of anger. And vexation 
that here, in this institute, where specialists issued all the 
necessary warnings and proposals, we turned out to be 
insufficiently powerful and armed to implement the 
necessary point of view. We wrote reports and many of 
us made speeches and we felt the danger of the compli¬ 
cation of technological systems without a change in the 
philosophy of their development. We had ready recom¬ 
mendations. Well, for example, the most important 
warning element would have been the development of 
diagnostics systems. We fought for these diagnostic 
systems, tested some of them, demanded their develop¬ 
ment and everywhere described the danger of the fact 
that we have a shortage of computers to develop the 
necessary models and to evaluate the situation, to train 

personnel. But it turns out that we demanded too little 
and did a poor job of explaining. In this sense there was 
a feeling of anger. To be angry at the physicists or even 
more so, at physics, is the same as hitting a gutta percha 
copy of the director with a stick, as is done in Japan. 
Physics is the leading science in technology; it cannot be 
guilty of anything. Only people who utilize it poorly can 
be guilty. 

“And how did I live through it as an individual? On 
Saturday, 26 April, I was called from the aktiv, I was 
’’dressed up“ and flew there that way. Not one of us 
expected an accident of such a scale. We were incorrectly 
informed from the plant while we were in Moscow. We 
received contradictory information. According to one set 
of information everything was going on there — a 
nuclear accident, radiation danger and fire, generally all 
types of danger were mentioned. Then we received 
information that attempts were being made to operate 
the reactor. If an attempt is being made to operate the 
reactor this means it still exists and there are no special 
problems. But when we arrived, it was in the evening on 
Saturday, and I saw the red glow of a fire, this was 
staggering and immediately indicated the seriousness of 
the situation. And later there was no time for emotion — 
it was necessary to immediately devise ways to measure 
what and how, to do what and so forth. On that evening 
we only assessed the radiation situation; moreover, the 
most active ‘radiation specialist’ was professor Abagyan 
Armen Artavazdovich. Next day, when I arrived at the 
reactor ruins in the armored troop carrier, that is when 
the feeling of anger of which I spoke to you appeared. 
And I also realized that we were not prepared for such a 
situation. We had no solutions that were thought out 
ahead of time and no technical means. After all what had 
occurred? It was always said that the likelihood of a 
nuclear accident was extremely small. And the designs of 
nuclear power stations actually did bear this out. But still 
the minute possibility was not zero. This meant that an 
accident like this could have occurred once in 1,000 
years. But who was to say that this once could not have 
happened during one of our years? During the year 1986? 
Nevertheless, the possibility of an accident is not fore¬ 
seen before this event of little likelihood occurs. 

“It is true that after a while when I had to travel to 
Vienna to a meeting of IAEA, I became convinced that 
all of international science and technology, as practical 
experience has shown, has not been very prepared for 
this type of accident... 

“And I will say this too. Perhaps this sounds paradoxical, 
but as soon as the intensity of the alarm abated I began 
to feel satisfaction from the work being done. In my 
opinion, I am not alone, completely not alone, in these 
emotions. Because conditions were created during which 
real work was taking place — without papers, without 
red tape, without submitting something for someone’s 
approval. A colossal responsibility was put on the gov¬ 
ernment commission, especially during the first days. It 
was only after the situation was much calmer, later, that 

1 February 1988 


all kinds of decisions had to be submitted for approval. 
But at that time it was thus: Everyone helped us, every¬ 
thing was available to us, but all of the responsibility for 
decision-making was placed on the shoulders of people 
who had come there, and especially on the shoulders of 
B. Ye. Shcherbin. And this turned out to be very helpful. 
The situation was a dramatic one, but under conditions 
of independence accompanied by responsibility we were 
successful, through the organized efforts of the majority 
of people, in limiting the number of injured and in 
localizing the accident fairly rapidly. 

“Scientific decisions also had to be made there. The first 
of these involved localizing the accident. We did not 
have a behavior algorithm for such situations. And the 
only field of action was the air, at a height of no lower 
than 200 meters above the reactor. What should we do? 
The first thing we established was that the reactor was 
inoperable. In these gamma fields neutron detectors did 
not operate; all neutron channels were inoperable. This 
meant that according to the ratio of short-life isotopes 
and to the activeness of their formation it was necessary 
to establish that there was no new production of rapidly- 
decomposing isotopes. Scientists were convinced that 
there were no new emissions. The reactor was not 
operating. But the graphite was burning, which meant 
that air was being sucked in from below and some 
cooling was occurring. This meant that it was possible to 
stabilize the process naturally, to do nothing and await 
the natural cooling of the reactor. It is true that the wait 
is a long one. Why is this good? This is good because the 
danger of the passage to the bottom of the Zone, the 
danger of the melting of the bottom and the pollution of 
ground waters would have been eliminated naturally. 
And then there would not have been any problems. 

“But then in the atmosphere the activity of the reactor in 
terms of aerosol products of burning and increased 
temperature would be considerably greater, and the scale 
and intensity of the pollution would be very extensive. 
Covering the remains of the reactor from above meant 
decreasing the danger of air pollution but an impairment 
of temperature reduction, i.e. the creation of the danger 
of a warm-up and the movement of the fuel mass in the 
a downward direction. A decision had to be made. Then 
it was decided to do the following — to cover the reactor 
from above with materials that would filter but at the 
same time wouldstabilize the temperature. This was the 
reason for the low-melting metal (while it is melting the 
temperature does not increase), which protects from 
radiation, and for carbonates, which absorb the reactor’s 
heat for their own breakdown and which release carbon 
dioxide during breakdown, therebyhelping to stop the 
burning of the graphite. 

“A problem unprecedented in the world was being 

“Traditional equipment usually was not suitable either 
because the site of the readings was inaccessible or 
because of the temperature or radiation fields. In a short 

period of time many specialists and organizations had to 
invent new methods and new technical means for mea¬ 
surement, for securing the active particles at the site so 
that they would not be borne away by the wind, for 
building and for decontamination. A great deal was 
done, and as we can already see, with the achievement of 
the goal. Western experts would later call these methods 
innovative and effective. It is just a bitter regret that all 
of this was developed rapidly not before but after the 
fact. During the first days it was necessary to work 

“The last thing I want to say has to do with young people. 
Of course I had occasion to meet with different situa¬ 
tions, sometimes not very agreeable. But among them 
were others that gave rise only to admiration. Things 
have already been written about the heroism of the 
firemen. Some, reading this, fussed that the firemen were 
at the control point too long and in vain and were 
overexposed to no purpose. But this was true heroism, 
and moreover justified, because in the machine hall 
there was both hydrogen and oil...The firemen did not 
allow the fire to develop, and it could have destroyed the 
neighboring unit. The first step toward localizing the 
accident was a correct one. 

“And how the military pilots worked! That was truly an 
accomplishment. They worked irreproachably and pro¬ 
fessionally. There were very many young fellows in the 
chemical divisions. Reconnaissance was their responsi¬ 
bility. They worked completely fearlessly and precisely. 

“You know, everything proceeded harmoniously there. I 
cannot say that the young people there worked more 
than others, but the fact that the young people behaved 
with dignity is a fact. The physicists — both from 
Moscow and Kiev — got right into the thick of it. I would 
say that the young people who worked there exhibited 
high human and professional qualities.” 

Vladimir Stepanovich Gubarev, writer, journalist, recipi¬ 
ent of the USSR State Prize, and author of the play, 

“Everything that happened in Chernobyl and around it 
is very bitter to me. I feel that in the history of our 
country this is the third major event. 

“The first was the Tartar-Mongol yoke. We shielded 
Europe from the hordes and barbarians. The second was 
fascism. We saved Europe from fascism. And now we are 
securing man’s future at a very costly price. 

“The tragedy of Chernobyl, and herein lies its special 
quality, has to do with the fact that we have met with a 
manifestation of atomic energy precisely in the form of 
the so-called ‘peaceful atom.’ There will be no more such 
catastrophes. This I can say with complete assurance. 
The future of civilization is impossible without atomic 
energy. But Chernobyl exists. For this reason, when we 
are building this future we must take the lessons of 

1 February 1988 


Chernobyl into account. Before Chernobyl we 
approached this very easily. For this reason we are laying 
the path toward a civilized future at a very high cost. 

“I would be a very primitive person if I described 
documental events in artistic form. Naturally a great 
deal of that which was the basis for the play was born in 
Chernobyl, where I worked as a PRAVDA reporter. But 
I can say quite clearly that I had no specific person in 
mind. I tried to create typical figures.” 

From the play, “Sarcophagus,” (magazine ZNAMYA, 
No 9, 1986): 

^'‘Sergeyev: For a long time no one there realized what 
had happened, and this is why, just in case, they did not 
report it to Moscow. They were waiting for something... 

Bessmertnyy: It seems to me that it was a very serious 
accident. On the radio they aren’t saying anything for 
some reason. 

Sergeyev: So it was an explosion after all? 

Ptitsyna: Of course. It’s just that for some people it was 
just something they did not need, and they are trying to 
prove that the reactor fell apart with the accident. A fire. 
Simply a fire.“ 

V. Gubarev: 

“When I started writing ‘Sarcophagus’ I had a real desire 
to consider these events from a philosophical point of 
view. I wanted to show that we are living at a totally 
different time than we ourselves imagine. That we are 
living in the atomic space age, that it has its own laws, its 
own philosophy, and its own responsibility on the part of 
people with regard to events and their consequences.” 

From the play, “Sarcophagus:” 

Bessmertnyy: But which, excuse me for the non-literary 
term, son-of-a-bitch turned off the emergency system?! I 
wanted to say that this is —murder. Not suicide, but 

Physicist: ...The most important thing for us is to find 
out who did away with the emergency system. 

Bessmertnyy: Who did away with it? Who did away with 
it? The system did away with the emergency system. The 
system of irresponsibility. 

Operator: But we are all in a rush, in a hurry; we 
complete our responsibilities 3 months early, 2 days 
early, and he requested the measuring devices four times. 
No one hurried up there. But we, on the other hand, 
fulfill the requests of the authorities...Why this? When 
they are asked — silence, when we are asked — an 
immediate hurrah and we forge ahead...Everything for 
the sake of reports and prizes...Who needs this kind of 
acceleration? It is the same thing as cars running around 

the city at a speed of 100 kilometers an hour—let them 
run over everyone as long as they can go faster.,.We 
promised to bring it up to full capacity immediately after 
the holidays. Two days early. Everyone is taking on 
added responsibilities.,.And what are we — sluggards? 

Physicist: This is why the emergency protection was done 
away with.“ 

V. Gubarev: 

“ ‘Sarcophagus’ contains three main ideas. The first is 
this. If a person acts against his conviction, against his 
point of view, if he moves away from responsibility, then 
this person is living in a sarcophagus. 

“The second idea is this. If people — each individual 
and society as a whole — do not draw conclusions from 
tragedies then they are living in a sarcophagus. 

“And the third idea is this. In the play there is constant 
repetition, like a refrain, of words from the instructions 
on civil defense as a model for atomic warfare. I wanted 
to say that if mankind does not take the lessons of the 
tragedy into consideration, it will be in a sacrophagus, 

“This play was written in 1 week. It was in July — from 
19 to 26 July. When I began writing it I could not sleep, 
I could not talk, I slept 3 hours a day. You see, I could 
not do otherwise. You see, now I judge all people, no 
matter where they live, no matter what they are involved 
in, no matter what posts they occupy, by their attitude 
toward Chernobyl. If the person is indifferent, if this 
tragedy did not touch him, this kind of person, to my 
thinking, is lost. Because there are such national trage¬ 
dies, and this is a national tragedy, in which each person 
must express his attitude toward the events. I want to 
look into the eyes of those people who say that a play is 
not needed, that it is premature. Because if we do not 
sound the alarm, do not scream, do not warn, then there 
will be no one to look at our plays and our literary works, 
to read them.” 

From the play, “Sarcophagus:” 

"’"Physicist: The main thing in this tragedy is its lessons. 
We do not have the right not to learn them...There has 
never yet been such an experience in the history of man. 
The explosion of a reactor and its consequences. It may 
be that this will be the only case. More likely it is the 
first. It should be the last. To do this we must study all 
aspects — scientific, technical, psychological.” 

V. Gubayev: 

“And most importantly, these lessons should not bypass 
our youth. After all, those who were born after 1961, after 
the flight of Yuriy Gagarin, they truly do believe that 
they were born in the atomic age. They are used to the 
start-up of rockets. But they must understand one thing 
—since they live in such an era the level of their 

1 February 1988 


knowledge and education must be considerably higher 
than that of their fathers. Because they will be working 
with generally new technology. And tomorrow they will 
be developing it. Sometimes they see this as their due, as 
some sort of given. Just like the car in the street. Or like 
the television. But this is complicated technology. And it 
is very dangerous. It demands from man a new level of 
conceptualization and knowledge, and most importantly 
— a new level in man’s attitude toward it.” 

Robert Gale: 

“There are many lessons in Chernobyl. One of them is 
the necessity to learn to exist with nuclear energy. We 
have no other choice. We are living in a nuclear age and 
must get on well with it. In the U.S.A. we receive almost 
17 percent of our electrical energy from atomic power 
plants. In some countries of Western Europe this figure 
reaches 60 or 65 percent. By 1990 there will be about 500 
nuclear reactors on earth. In other words, the question is 
not whether to enter or not to enter the nuclear age. We 
are already in it. For this reason a high level of respon¬ 
sibility, precision and care in the use of atomic energy 
are necessary. If we analyze the reasons for all accidents 
that have taken place in the U.S.A. and the USSR we will 
see that they occurred not as a result of atomic energy 
itself but due to human error. 

“Another lesson to be drawn is that accidents similar to 
the one at Chernobyl touch not only the country in which 
it occurred but a number of neighboring countries as 
well. For this reason aid during such an accident should 
be carried out not just on a national, but also on an 
international level. We must understand that we depend 
on each other, especially since atomic energy and nuclear 
weapons are proliferating. 

“Finally, the last and probably most important lesson. In 
comparison with the conscious use of atomic weapons 
Chernobyl could be categorized as an insignificant inci¬ 
dent. But if this relatively small accident cost valuable 
human lives, the serious joint efforts of doctors and 2 
billion rubles, then what can we say about the military 
use of nuclear weapons? We doctors will have no power 
to help man. 

“This should never be forgotten. 

“Chernobyl is the last warning for mankind.” 

On a cold November morning when a wet snow was 
falling on the clay ground I went to Mitino Cemetery in 
suburban Moscow. Not far from the entrance, to the left 
of the main walkway, there were neat rows of identical 
graves. White marble headstones. The dates of birth 
were different, but the dates of death were almost all 
May 1986. 

The heroes of Chernobyl. The victims of Chernobyl. It is 
possible that among them were also the guilty of Cher¬ 
nobyl. Death has made them all equal, giving us the 
living the right to have only one feeling —immeasure- 
able grief about the waste of these young human lives. 

I paid my respects to their remains (in doing this I had to 
show the police guard my writer’s identification, as if in 
my action there was something suspicious) and left with 
heavy thoughts about the time that we have lived 
through since Chernobyl. With its merciless x-rays the 
accident immediately illuminated our national and state 
mechanism. On the severe screen of Chernobyl our 
enormous internal power and reserves (after all, we can 
solve any problem if we set our mind to it!) as well as our 
serious chronic disease, which we cannot stash away into 
a placid formula of past years such as “individual 
atypical shortcomings,” were revealed more clearly than 
ever before. 

Doctor Gale was right! Chernobyl crashed out at us as a 
last warning—to mankind, to the country and to each 
one of us, young or old, whether we are in a position of 
leadership or a subordinate, whether we are scientist or 

To everyone. 

The last warning. 

I do not want to comment upon anyone else, I do not 
want to prove, elucidate, convince, scream or warn, 
because others are screaming and warning, the different 
people who do not know each other—Russians, Ukrai¬ 
nians, Belorussians, Georgians, Poles, Americans; and 
the golden-haired delicate Aneliya Perkovskaya, who, 
having sent the children of Pripyat to the pioneer camps, 
on 11 May collapsed unconscious and was sent to the 
hospital in serious condition; and Leonid Petrovich 
Telyatnikov with whom I had the opportunity to talk in 
a Kiev hospital and who at that time was already feeling 
better and whose head was covered with attractive, short 
dark auburn hair, but he admitted that he still slept 
poorly at night and the he is pursued by visions of the 
fire; and the “United States 1986 Man of the Year” — 
the brilliant doctor, Robert Gale, who has touched our 
lives and our misfortune; and the future cardiologist 
Maksim Drach, who matured many years in May 1986; 
and academician Valeriy Alekseyevich Legasov, who 
uttered such bitter and merciless words about the moral 
reasons for all our misfortunes. 

They all said everything there is to say and their words 
need no extensive commentary. 

And if their voices, their truths, will not be heard, if 
everyone remains as of old, if we study “a little, some¬ 
how,” if we continue to work as we have worked, with 
our sleeves down, doing hack work, if loyal, cynical and 
illiterate persons anxious to please and not intelligent, 

1 February 1988 


decent people with their independent views and convic¬ 
tions make careers in our society, if only unquestioning 
subordination to orders and not a creative juxtaposition 
of different, freely-expressed opinions are the highest 
valor at different hierarchical steps of the government, as 
before — then this will mean that we have not learned 
anything and that the lessons of Chernobyl have been in 

And then new Chernobyls will follow, new “Admiral 
Nakhimovs,” new bitter shocks in our lives. 

The warning of Chernobyl. It happened that I watched 
the television movie, “Warning,” shown in February 
1987 on TsT [color television], in one of the Kiev 
hospitals together with those who had worked in the 
Zone and were now under observation. All of the depart¬ 
ments gathered at the television set, and although these 
were different people who did not know each other, on 
that evening the television screen and the difficult mem¬ 
ories of what they had lived through united them all. To 
my mind came memories of childhood — in a cold 
movie theater in 1942 in Saratov a hungry and tired 
people watched the documentary film, “The Destruction 
of the German Fascist Troops Near Moscow.” I watched 
with pain and hope, sorrow and faith. 

The times have changed, the historical circumstances 
have changed and people have changed — only the 
expression on faces has remained the same — the same 
pain and hope. Sitting next to me were young fellows in 
hospital gowns — operators of Ukrainian television 
Yuriy Kolyada, Sergey Losev and Mikhail Lebedev, 
producer Igor Kobrin and commentator Gennadiy 
Dusheyko. They were intensively scrutinizing the close- 
ups of the chronicle of Chernobyl events. They know 
better than most at what price these close-ups were 
made. Yura Kolyada was the first television operator in 
the world to photograph the destruction of the reactor in 
May 1986. Each step nearer to the reactor “cost” dozens 
of x-rays in those days. The people around me knew the 
price of Chernobyl. In UkSSR Gosteleradio [State Radio 
and Television Association] alone, over fifty workers — 
television operators, radio journalists, commentators, 
sound technicians and drivers — had to undergo medical 
tests, and some had to go to sanatoriums for treatment. 
One of the leading and most fearless operators of the 
Ukrainian television, 49-year old Valentin Yurchenko, 
died suddenly in the fall of 1986. And although the cause 
of death (heart attack) outwardly was not related to 
Chernobyl radiation, who can reject the role of stress and 
the nervous overload borne by this courageous man 
during the hot summer days of 1986? This was the price 
at which the truth about Chernobyl was sought, the truth 
which in and of itself has become a serious warning to all 
of us. 

Chernobyl began a special accounting of time for man¬ 

Chernobyl’s warning as a fully realistic image of what 
mankind can expect in case of a nuclear accident must be 
heard not only by professional politicians of the entire 
world and by the military with their fingers on missile 
buttons but also by every individual without exception 
regardless of age and the social situation. 

“The avoidance of nuclear omnicide is the most urgent 
task of mankind in our day. However, for the great 
majority of people all of this is insufficiently clear. In 
other words, many of those who say they realize the 
danger actually do not believe in its reality.” (Kvasil, B., 
Fuks, G., Rzhiman, Yy., Somervil, Dzh., Gayko, V. 
“The Scientists Talk: Nuclear Omnicide — Threat to All 
Living Things,” in book: “Who and How Peace Can 
Prevail,” Prague, Mir i Sotsializm, 1981). 

I would like to believe that after Chernobyl mankind will 
understand more clearly what can happen to it if we 
begin an exchange of nuclear strikes. 

...In empty Pripyat we entered the central point for city 
security. The police officer on duty was sitting at the 
signal control panel. In the next room the patrol director 
was chewing out a sergeant for something. Bundles of 
keys were hanging on a plywood board before the guard. 
There were street names and a yellow bunch of front¬ 
door keys to houses on the board. By the number of keys 
it was possible to understand where there were more 
houses and where fewer. 

I would not like to see, at the Martian earth security 
station (militia or police, it does not matter), bunches of 
keys belonging to countries that have fallen and been 
abandoned forever. I do not want to see the glitter of a 
key from my homeland, the Ukraine, somewhere in the 
general bundle of keys belonging to Europe. 

In my garage I have hanging as a symbol of that wild 
world which we entered last year the white overalls given 
to me in Chernobyl. Really I should probably throw 
them out since I walked around in them in the Zone, but 
I cannot — it is valuable as a memory and ominous as a 
warning. And in the evenings when I come home and 
drive into my garage, lights on, the blinding white 
apparition appears before me — an apparition that now 
wanders through Chernobyl fields and Kiev apart¬ 

Enough about this! 

This is why I want to finish my story with one idyllic 
memory. After everything that I had seen in the Zone 
and around it, after the deathly silence of the abandoned 
villages (I do not know why, but I was especially touched 
by the village cemeteries, these “shadows of forgotten 
ancestors,” where the living will no longer be coming), 
after the hospital wards and the looks of those lying 
under the medicine droppers, after the jumping of the 
arrows of the dosimeters, after the danger hidden in the 

1 February 1988 


grass, water and trees, I left Kiev for 2 days in May. I 
sped to the east on the empty Kiev-Kharkov highway 
and stopped only at check points in order to undergo 
dosimetric control. 

I was driving to Mirgorod to see my daughter and 
granddaughter. The very same Mirgorod about which 
Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol had written: 

“Mirgorod is a wonderful city! It has all types of struc¬ 
tures! The roofs are straw, or bog-rush or even wooden; 
to the right is a street, to the left is a street, everywhere 
there is magnificent wattle fencing; the hop plant weaves 
upon this fencing, pots are hung on it, from behind it 
sunflowers show their sunlike heads, poppies redden, 
and fat melons can be glimpsed fleetingly...Abundance!” 

How long ago that was! From what kind of naive and 
serene time did these words come! But in May 1986 the 
city of Mirgorod was also magnificent. It was magnifi¬ 
cent in that it had no radiation, or maybe the radiation 
there was just slightly elevated. And no one here recom¬ 
mended that windows be closed. 

It was a May dusk, when the air in Mirgorod is filled with 
the lazy aromas of the land that has grown languid in the 
course of the day. I went to the bank of the small Khorol 
River, lay down in the grass and closed my eyes. Nearby 
I heard the love trills of frogs, felt the freshness of the 
grass and the nearness of the water. On the other bank 

cows were mooing, waiting for the time when they could 
give their hot milk to the tin pails. And suddently I 
understood what happiness is. 

It is grass on which you can lie down without fearing 
radiation. It is a warm river in which you can swim. It is 
cows whose milk you can drink freely. It is the provincial 
town living a measured life, and the sanatorium with its 
tree-lined paths along which the vacationers stroll, buy 
tickets for the summer movie theater and make friends 
— this is happiness. But not everyope understands this. 

I felt that I was an astronaut who had returned to earth 
from a long and dangerous journey into the anti-world. 

At that moment one of my friends called me and handed 
me some kind of plant that she had pulled out by the 
roots. Nothing special — coarse, dark-green leaves and a 
thick stalk as if colored with violet inks. This plant was 
called the “Chernobyl.” Bitter was its aftertaste. 

December 1986-January 1987 

(End of the first book.) 

COPYRIGHT: Izdatelstvo TsK KPSS “Pravda”. “Yu- 
nost”, 1987.